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Zola - Blu-ray Review

Zola

In case you missed the now (in)famous twitter thread from back in 2015 written by then mostly unknown waitress/stripper A’Ziah-Monae “Zola” King – who now acts as the film’s producer, you can get yourself caught up on one of the most bizarre weekend road trip stories since the Hoover family set out for Olive’s beauty pageant in Little Miss Sunshine.

"It is dirty. It is filthy. And it is gross. But like the allure of the proverbial train wreck, it’s also hard to turn away"


 

“Y’all wanna hear the story about why me and this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense,” began the tweet thread that also acts as the jumping off point for new film called Zola which tells a story so unbelievably absurd, it could only be true. You can’t make this stuff up.

It goes something like this: upon meeting a fellow exotic dancer named Stefani (Riley Keough, The Runaways) at a local Hooter’s bar, our intrepid narrator, Zola (Taylor Page, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) thinks she’s found a soulmate in Stefani. The two bond over their mutual admiration for each other’s perfect bodies and a shared love of pole dancing. So, naturally, it isn’t long before the two decide to head out on a weekend trip to Florida with hopes of making big money on the stripping circuit, as strippers do.

The next morning, Zola finds herself in a car with not only Stefani, but also Stefani’s hopelessly naive boyfriend Derreck (Nicholas Braun, TV’s Succession), and her Nigerian “driver” credited only as X (Colman Domingo, Selma).

Upon arrival in Tampa, the relationship dynamic between Stefani, Derrick, and X becomes crystal clear to Zola. Rather than getting into too many of the details, let’s just say that it isn’t long before Zola realizes she should have asked a few more pressing questions before agreeing to accompany the group. Their whirlwind 48 hour adventure involves, among other things, a fleabag motel, strip joints, high roller suites, guns, money, tweets, and an endless stream of horny men. Mix in a dose of suspense, a couple of unforeseen twists, and you have a journey that goes all kinds of sideways. And that’s what makes this adventure tale so fun to watch.Zola

Zola’s tweet storm, originally addressed in a Rolling Stone article by David Kushner, is adapted for the big screen by writer/director Janicza Bravo and Jeremy O. Harris who do an admirable job of creating a cohesive and entertaining narrative from a weekend of wanton debauchery.

Told in first person from Zola’s point of view, Bravo mixes voice-over narration, title cards, split screens, and social media chirps and buzzes to give the proceedings a unique style that always reminds us of the story’s digital roots. As for the point of it all, there really isn’t one, other than to maybe challenge the viewers to believe that it all really went down this way.

Then again, there really doesn’t have to be a point for an audience to be entertained. Sure, some will claim the whole of it unfulfilling, and an argument can be made that Bravo and Harris have something very profound to say about sex trafficking or sexual exploitation. But this just feels more like a straight-up depiction of what went down that crazy weekend. And as that kind of film, its allure can’t be denied.

Though we probably get a much more graphic look into the sex industry than we bargained for, there’s no denying the mesmerizing effect Zola has on its viewers. It is dirty. It is filthy. And it is gross. But like the allure of the proverbial train wreck, it’s also hard to turn away. Watch it through parted fingers then take a shower afterwards.

5/5 stars

 

Zola - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Lionsgate
Available on Blu-ray
- September 14, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

The road trip of the summer continues as Zola comes to home video courtesy of Lionsgate Films and A24 with a wonderful little Blu-ray + Digital package that includes a director's commentary, a fun little EPK with interviews – including one from from the real life Zola, and handful of deleted scenes.

Video

Originally shot on 16mm film and finished to 2k with an appropriately grainy 1080p 1.85:1 transfer, this is not going to be something to write home about and you won't see it playing on the giant video wall at your local video retailer to show off new TVs. It's simply not something that will blow your socks off. Of course, that's purposeful. However, the muted colors, grainy texture, and soft detail feel perfectly suited for the filthiness of the subject matter.

Audio

The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is lively and energetic with the Conga beats of Mica Levi really coming to life when the action moves to Florida. There are long segments with virtually no audio other than dialogue which is always clean and clearly audible. Included are optional Spanish and English subtitles.

Supplements:

Commentary:

There's a fun little commentary track from writer/director Janicza Bravo and editor Joi McMillon that will be especially appreciated by aspiring filmmakers as they get into many of the more figurative and metaphorical aspects of the shooting style. It is particularly interesting to hear the female filmmakers discussing topics that are typically handled by male filmmakers.

Special Features:

Included on the blu-ray disc are an EPK-type feature as well as a handful of deleted scenes.

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  3/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars

 

Film Details

Zola

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, and violence including a sexual assault..
Runtime:
86 mins
Director
: Janicza Bravo
Writer:
Janicza BravoJeremy O. Harris
Cast:
Taylour Paige; Riley Keough; Nicholas Braun
Genre
: Comedy | Thriller | Crime
Tagline:
Y'all Wanna Hear a Story.
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
A24
Official Site: https://a24films.com/films/zola
Release Date:
June 30, 2021
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 14, 2021.
Synopsis: Zola (newcomer Taylour Paige), a Detroit waitress, strikes up a new friendship with a customer, Stefani (Riley Keough), who seduces her to join a weekend of dancing and partying in Florida. What at first seems like a glamorous trip full of “hoeism” rapidly transforms into a 48-hour journey involving a nameless pimp, an idiot boyfriend, some Tampa gangsters and other unexpected adventures in this wild, see-it-to-believe-it tale.

Art

Zola

 

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