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Janicza Bravo
Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Colman Domingo
Writing Credits:
Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris

A stripper named Zola embarks on a wild road trip to Florida.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 86 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 9/14/2021

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Janicza Bravo and Editor Joi McMillon
• “Y’all Wanna Hear a Story” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes


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Zola [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 6, 2021)

Based on its title, one might expect 2021’s Zola to either remake 1937’s Oscar-winning Life of Emile Zola or bring a biography on 1980s South African Olympic runner Zola Budd. Instead, it brings a tale based on a series of Twitter comments.


In Detroit, A’Ziah "Zola" King (Taylour Paige) works as a waitress who also performs as a stripper on the side. At the restaurant job, she meets Stefani (Riley Keough), The two become friends and Stefani convinces Zola to accompany her to Tampa, a place where she claims they can make big bucks at nude clubs.

Though wary, Zola agrees and hits the road with her pal, Stefani’s boyfriend Derrek (Nicholas Braun) and a mysterious friend of Stefani’s just known as “X” (Colman Domingo). This leads Zola into an ever-escalating series of escapades, as she discovers hidden motives among all involved.

Earlier I waxed a little snarky about the fact that Zola originated from tweets, and perhaps I shouldn’t. Sure, the notion of a “Twitter movie” sounds silly on the surface, but given that Twitter simply offers an alternate form of communication, I shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.

Heck, maybe 20 years from now, Twitter will act as the primary source of new film ideas. If Zola offers a hint of what to expect, though, I hope this doesn’t occur, as this becomes a movie as thin and superficial as the format implies.

Zola seems like the kind of movie that sounds like a fun idea on paper but that doesn’t pan out in reality, largely because it barely comes across as a narrative. We get a series of events that can seem like little more than loosely connected episodes.

Sure, events develop and build in some ways, but the characters remain thin. Stefani never exists as more than a caricature of a white girl who “acts Black”, and Zola herself remains essentially a cipher.

Given that the whole movie comes from Zola’s POV, it makes some sense that she depicts as more assured and capable than might be reality – and that Stefani and others seem cartoonier than might otherwise occur. Nonetheless, Zola tends to seem like something of a dope.

Zola continually acts like she’s above everyone else, but she still goes along with one bad decision after another. The events propel her and make her a less than compelling lead character.

Even at a mere 86 minutes, Zola comes stuffed with filler. We get plenty of superfluous scenes as well as others that run too long and go nowhere. <> Zola also seems all over the place in terms of tone. It flits from horror to comedy to parody to social commentary, all without coherence.

The end result feels like a semi-random collection of wacky scenes without much to connect them, and we wind up with a ridiculously anti-climactic ending. Though intriguing as an experiment in the adaptation of an unusual source, Zola falters as a movie.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Zola appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Shot on Super 16mm, Zola suffered from the stock’s limitations.

Many of the concerns stemmed from iffy definition. Close-ups looked good, and most wider exteriors showed decent detail. However, these elements lacked great delineation and could veer toward the mushy side.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to manifest themselves. Print flaws didn’t become an issue.

In terms of colors, Zola often opted for garish reds, pinks, blues and greens. These tended to look heavy and overdone, also related to the stock.

Blacks were reasonably deep and dense, while shadows were acceptable. They could be a little murky, but that wasn’t a serious issue. Given lowered expectations that related to Super16, this seemed like an adequate presentation.

Better results came from the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, as it used the spectrum in a fairly involving manner. Music became the most active component, as score and songs filled the various channels well. Effects got less to do but they added useful information as appropriate.

Audio quality worked fine. Dialogue felt reasonably natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.

Music showed nice range and impact, as the various songs and score packed a good sense of dynamics. Effects appeared accurate and tight. This turned into a fairly satisfying soundtrack for a character tale.

A few extras fill out the disc, and we get an audio commentary from writer/director Janicza Bravo and editor Joi McMillon. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story, characters and themes, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, editing, photography and connected topics.

Bravo and McMillon offer an erratic commentary, one dominated by the director. While the editor chimes in with occasional insights, she mostly just giggles.

At times, Bravo gives us some useful material, but the track comes with a surprising amount of empty spaces given the film's brevity. Bravo also hardly ever reflects on the adaptation of the source tweets, and I would guess that these two issues overlap.

Because the commentary remains chatty the rest of the time, I suspect that the legal department caused the gaps. I would imagine that Bravo and McMillon delved into topics related to the real events that might not have been kosher in terms of how the actual people involved would react and these potentially controversial elements got the boot.

Or maybe Bravo and McMillon just went silent a lot of the time - the thoughts above simply offer my guess. Whatever the case, this becomes a spotty and disappointing track, as I really did hope to get more information about the challenges related to the translation of tweets to a screenplay.

Y’all Wanna Hear a Story runs 12 minutes, 37 seconds and brings notes from Bravo, executive producer A’Ziah “Zola” King, and actors Taylour Paige, Colman Domingo, Riley Keough and Nicholas Braun

“Wanna” covers the source tweets and their adaptation, Bravo’s approach to the film, cast and performances, and visual design. We get too much happy talk here, but “Wanna” packs a few good details, especially from the actors.

Five Deleted Scenes span a total of five minutes, 37 seconds. These mostly offer expositional filler.

We do get one intriguing clip in which we see how Stefani ran the same scam with women other than Zola, and another shows that Stefani cares less about her daughter than she claims. The weirdest focuses on a bunch of people we never see again, so it feels like a weird choice.

We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Bravo and McMillon. They deliver notes about the sequences and why the clips got cut.

Should one expect a coherent movie based on tweets? Apparently not, as Zola becomes little more than a loose collection of zany scenes without much insight or purpose. The Blu-ray gives us acceptable picture and audio along with a decent array of bonus materials. Some aspects of Zola show potential, but the end result goes nowhere.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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