There is no hyper-modern behavior more complacent than telling a social media drama to people who weren’t there or who don’t care. The intrigue of the forum can be quite tedious and impenetrable. Do we really need to resurface the little humiliations of obsessive use of social media in real life? That’s the challenge inherent in adapting a story based on the most famous and mind-boggling common thread in Twitter history: the risk of pushing a joke too far.
But Zola, the film A24 released wednesday, overcomes this challenge early enough in its execution. Yes, the titular stripper has indeed posted 148 tweets about her disastrous trip to Tampa. But in the film’s first act, Zola is obsessed only with her phone for texting with a blaccent white siren, Stefani, who is determined to lead Zola to certain death at the hands of various gangsters and savage men. It’s not Twitter. This is Florida.
Directed by independent filmmaker Janicza Bravo, co-written with slave game playwright Jeremy O. Harris, Zola adapts viral confessional tweeted by A’ziah “Zola” King – aka @_zolarmoon – on October 27, 2015. Shortly after Zola’s thread went viral, A24 opted for the following feature in Rolling stone, resolving some inconsistencies and pointing out some embellishments, but reinforcing Zola’s narrative. “It reads as if Spring Breakers meets Pulp Fiction, as Nicki Minaj recounts,” wrote the author of the article, David Kushner. The film adaptation, while scorching, gets darker. This is Training day for strippers.
The mission is deceptively simple. Zola (Taylour Paige) meets Stefani (Riley Keough) during her shift at Hooters, and Stefani recruits Zola for a road trip to dance at clubs in Tampa. Zola joins Stefani, her boyfriend Derek and her so called “roommate” X on the road, only to discover the false pretext for this trip: Zola and Stefani are not in Tampa just to dance, they are in town to sell sex. . And X, far from being anyone’s roommate, turns out to be Stefani’s pimp. For the remainder of the trip, Zola struggles to break free from this wild and dysfunctional crew as they are constantly at risk of killing each other.
In a sense, it’s a timeless story with broad appeal, hence its adaptation to the cinema. But it’s also a specific and now ancient moment in social media time. Here we have a Twitter feed six years before the doubling of the character limit for tweets, anticipating the proliferation of essays listed on the platform, but doing so before so many polemicists ripped off the novelty of this. format. It was another time, and Twitter is aging its personalities and dramas at a merciless rate, so in six years the moment has passed many times. Indeed, a worse movie might have looked dated. But Zola becomes rather nostalgic.
It’s easier to read the original thread to understand how Zola confided in a doomed trailer bound for Tampa. She is enterprising and adventurous, having traveled from Michigan to Florida to dance in clubs a few months earlier. She’s pretty shrewd. It turns out that she stumbles upon a surreal and impossible escalation: first dancing, then pimp, then cuck, then kidnapping, then shooting, then attempted suicide, and finally a sad escape to I-95. . Her story “about why me and that bitch fell here” may be her magnum opus, but Zola – a self-proclaimed “suburban bitch” raised to the rank of “hoe queen” – seemed to me to be. a woman who could tell similar stories for days.
The Zola in Zola is not so daring, opinionated or expressive. In tweets, Zola often launched in all caps. In the film, Zola sinks into stunned silences. As a narrator, she is exhausted, overwhelmed by the benefits of hindsight. As the protagonist of contemporary progression, she seems to be embarking on the Tampa road trip despite her introversion and better judgment. She’s too beautiful to share a Jeep Wrangler with these people. Offer an alternative motivation for Zola to join Stefani on the journey to the peak of cell service, Zola reinvents the fateful introduction as a cute encounter – Zola and Stefani exchanging obsessive looks and heart emojis until Stefani, Derek, and X start racking up betrayals.
I’m sure many viewers will see the film with little to no familiarity with the original thread. But the rest of us know how this story unfolds, and so ZolaThe heightened apprehension seems destined to restore our own. It’s, despite my nit-picking about tonal disparities, an overall smart move to pack it down. It’s harder (but not impossible) to imagine this version of Zola continuing to post 148 consecutive tweets written with easy disrespect about this ordeal. Zola transforms Zola into an ordinary woman and thus leaves room for the average viewer to inhabit the situation. Can you even begin to imagine how you would survive this bullshit? You would be speechless, too. You would see a therapist for years after the fact, and you certainly wouldn’t want to tweet a great American memoir within the applicable statute of limitations. The other characters are more faithful to the original narrative, although the names are changed: X (Colman Domingo) is a charming but ruthless bogeyman; Derek (Nicholas Braun) is a nervous wreck; local con artist Dion (Jason Mitchell) is a supreme heel; and Stefani is both cursed and the curse itself.
After looking at the inconsistencies in Zola’s characterization, it may seem appropriate to note some plot differences between the tweets and the film. But the common thread, while true to reality, flourished through creative licensing. Some readers doubted his account, so Zola then provided time stamps and other forensic analysis. But most users, I guess, understood that his formidable real-time literary mastery was his genuine and unmistakable distinction. This is what made her story worthy of a Hollywood adaptation although it needed to lose the crucial, improvised magic of its original narrative.
Again, Zola done just by the storyteller, his material and the original medium of its broadcast. It leaves you wondering how these characters manage to not only survive, but enjoy long enough and long enough to turn their death wishes into a lifestyle blanket. “I’ve made people who probably wouldn’t want to hear a sex trafficking story want to be part of it,” Zola said. Rolling stone. Zola doubles this invitation and leaves the nitpicking to the birds.