NEW YORK (CNS) — “Zola” (A24) has absolutely nothing to do with Emile Zola (1840-1902), the acclaimed French author who exposed wrongdoing with the exclamation, “J’accuse!” (“I accuse!”).
His namesake film, in fact, can be indicted for multiple offenses, including pornography.
This supposedly true story of two exotic dancers (aka strippers) who embark on a wild goose chase is replete with nudity and explicit sex. Vulgar language is pervasive, moreover, and several characters openly mock Christianity as they “pray” for affluent clients.
The film has an unusual source: a series of Twitter messages from a peeler named Aziah “Zola” King. In 2015 she tweeted, “Y’all wanna hear a story …?! It’s kinda long but full of suspense.”
The ensuing string of 148 tweets subsequently provided the basis for a “Rolling Stone” article by David Kushner. The tale has been adapted for the big screen by director Janicza Bravo, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jeremy O. Harris.
The slender plot revolves around Zola’s fictional counterpart (Taylour Paige), a waitress by day in a Detroit restaurant and a pole dancer by night. When ditzy Stefani (Riley Keough) sits down for lunch, Zola is intrigued, and an instant (and unlikely) friendship is sparked.
Foolishly, Zola agrees to join Stefani on a weekend binge to Florida, where Stefani promises big earnings from “dancing” in clubs in Tampa. Joining them for the car journey is Derrek (Nicholas Braun), Stefani’s idiotic boyfriend, and a brute named X (Colman Domingo), who seems to be much more than just the chauffeur.
Indeed he is: X is a pimp, and Stefani his prostitute. Both try to lure Zola into the world’s oldest profession, but she resists. This is no moral stand, however. Rather, Zola turns the tables on X and becomes Stefani’s procuress, charging more for her services and earning them both a windfall.
In the end, “Zola” is gratuitous trash, as disposable as yesterday’s tweets.
The film contains skewed values, including a mocking portrayal of Christianity, gunplay, domestic violence, explicit sexual activity, full nudity, a prostitution theme as well as pervasive profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
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This supposedly fact-based story, directed and co-written by Janicza Bravo, is replete with pornographic content and other objectionable elements. A stripper who works by day as a waitress (Taylour Paige) befriends a fellow peeler (Riley Keough) and agrees to a weekend trip to Florida. Along for the ride are the latter’s idiotic boyfriend (Nicholas Braun) and a shadowy, brutish driver (Colman Domingo) who turns out to be a pimp. Skewed values, including a mocking portrayal of Christianity, gunplay, domestic violence, explicit sexual activity, full nudity, a prostitution theme, pervasive profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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“Zola” (A24) — Catholic News Service classification, O — morally offensive. Motion Picture Association rating, R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.