Film FestivalsMovie ReviewsSundance 2020: Zola Review

Keith NoakesJanuary 26, 202092/100
Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun
Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris
Janicza Bravo
Running Time
90 minutes
Release Date
Overall Score
Rating Summary
Zola is a highly-original and hilarious dark comedy and a truly unique and thrilling experience.

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

Out of all the films that will be released over the course of this year, there will certainly not be many that match the experience that Zola provides. It’s a film for the internet age that on paper shouldn’t work, and for some audiences it surely won’t, but the film, loosely-based on a true story told from the Twitter feed of a Detroit-area waitress named A’Ziah King, is as outrageous at times as it is thrilling, uncomfortable, and hilarious.

Zola was of course about a woman named Zola (Paige), a waitress and striper who would find herself roped into an increasingly precarious situation by another stiper named Stefani (Keough) as they, Stefani’s boyfriend Derek (Nicholas Braun) and her roomate (Colman Domingo), embarked on a road trip to Tampa. Without giving too much away, what started off as a straightforward trip became anything but because it wouldn’t be much of a film otherwise. Suffice it to say that the film is not a comfortable watch though in the best way possible. Very quickly into the film, it was clear that Zola was way over her head. The contrast between her and the others was played off for laughs to great success (her reactions were golden). The film also takes an interesting path as it plays with the idea of perspective while adapting its unorthodox source material.

The great script and direction maintained a fine tonal balance but ultimately, the best part of Zola was Paige’s star-making performance as the titular character. She carries the film with her charisma and likability which allows the audience to connect with Zola. Meanwhile, Keough’s Stefani will surely be a sore spot for some audiences but this was her purpose. She commits fully to the role, stealing scenes as the dynamic character.

At the end of the day, Zola is definitely an experience that won’t be for everyone but is certainly one that will be hard to forget.

*still courtesy of A24*

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