As true to the Twitter thread as it possibly could be, Zola is a thrill ride full of suspense from start to finish. If you are a fan of the viral twitter thread from 2015 you’ll be majorly pleased with what the team behind Zola have done here, and even if you aren’t it’s captivating to see it all unfold on the big screen not knowing what's going to happen next.
Written by Alex Gilston
On October 27th 2015 @_Zolarmoon tweeted the words “Y'all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out???????? It's kind of long but full of suspense”. That and the following 149 tweets would become that years viral sensation being branded #TheStory. Just over 3 years later, filming started on an adaptation of the tweets and a Rolling Stones article that followed not long after titled ‘Zola Tells All’.
Zola follows waitress and stripper Aziah King, who meets fellow stripper Stefani who asks if she wants to go on a ‘hoe trip’ to Florida to make some money. What follows is a story with more twists and turns in it than an M.Night Shyamalan film, an utterly bizarre tale but in the best way possible. Janicza Bravo adapts the piece to a level any super-fan of the thread would be proud of. Zola’s inner monologue throughout the film, which quotes from the original twitter thread on multiple occasions, helps the story flow impressively, whilst also being able to question the reliability of the events unfolding on screen. Aziah King herself admitted in the Rolling Stones article she sensationalised some of the details to help the story find its audience, but Zola finds a deft balance between the thread and the more realistic retelling of the story from the article.
The performances in Zola are easily the strongest part of the film, with the actors bringing an authenticity to the characters that were only described within the confines of 140 characters. Aside from the two main stars of the film, Colman Domingo (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) shines through with his performance as X. You can feel the dominance he portrays in the character in every last scene he is in and he does this with ease. Nicholas Braun (Succession) also has an incredible turn with his character Derrek. You fall to the lowest of lows with Derrek and by the end it's him you’re truly rooting for.
There is a sequence towards the end that flips the script a little bit, and feels like an unnecessary addition so late on in the film in which it tells the story from the point of view of Stefani. The momentum takes a little stumble but gets right back on track when it flips back to Zola’s point of view again.
Zola, with its impressive style, takes the idea of an adaptation in a completely fresh direction, and uses the short form story to turn it into a film really worth watching. It's full of laughs, shocks and most importantly, as Aziah King said herself, it's full of suspense.