February is flying by, along with half the UK due to Storm Eunice. So far we’ve just about managed to get through it without losing too many roof tiles, though our recycling bin is another story. Perfect weather to snuggle up and complete our homework then.
This week we take a road trip to Florida with a dancer called Zola and her new (problematic) buddy, Stefani. You may already know its history but if not, this is based on a true story which gained infamy on Twitter a couple of years ago.
You wanna hear a story about how me and this bitch here fell out? It’s kinda long, but it’s full of suspense.
A stripper named Zola embarks on a wild road trip to Florida.
TW: sexual assault, violence
Aziah “Zola” King (Taylour Paige) is a waitress and part-time stripper in Detroit. One fateful day she serves Stefani (Riley Keough) at the restaurant she works at and the pair form an instant bond. They vibe so hard in fact that fellow stripper Stef invites Zola to dance at her club that very evening – and she accepts willingly.
Now firm friends, Stefani asks Zola to accompany her on a road trip to Florida, the location of a club she knows which will earn them upwards of $5k for one night’s work. Joining them are Stefani’s goofy boyfriend Derrek (Nicholas Braun) and her mysterious roommate, X (Colman Domingo). No worries, right? Well, after a long arse drive from Detroit to Florida and a lackluster evening of dancing for the girls, Zola is beginning to regret her decision. Especially since they’ve netted nowhere near the amount of money Stefani has promised.
Things get even more problematic when Zola finds out Stefani has posted a selfie of them online, advertising them out for a night of sex. She flatly refuses to do sex work but when she tries to leave X steps in and threatens her. He also reveals himself to be – gasp! – Stefani’s pimp. None of this bodes well for the rest of the trip but Zola’s trapped for now so she does what she can to get through it. This turns out to be teaching Stefani not to sell herself, and her skills, short. After a brief lesson in self-marketing, Stef literally cleans up – making $8k total for her services.
X isn’t best pleased with Zola’s interference but can’t help growing impressed with her smarts. Unfortunately, she’s still not free to leave the group and things take a violent turn when Derrek messes up and blabs about the reason for their trip to a couple of dudes back at the motel they’re staying at. Poor D is also oblivious to his girlfriend’s line of weekend work, believing she’s given it up for good.
When paranoid X learns what Derrek’s been up to – and the potential position he’s put them in to get robbed – he shepherds them to another hotel. Here he organises yet more sex work for Stefani. Zola’s understandably fuming but agrees to keep her safe, even after she learns this isn’t the first time her friend has tricked girls into similar situations.
Will X’s worst fears about Derrek’s new pals coming after them come to fruition? Will Zola get out of dodge in one whole piece? Well, honey, 148-tweet threads don’t gain that much traction if they’re not full of drama, sex and violence, you know?
I honestly had a lot of fun with this. The central performances are absolutely flawless and you really buy that initial chemistry between Zola and Stefani. The whole film simmers with tension and it’s hard not to expect something horrifying to happen to the women, especially since they’re considered money makers rather than human beings. And that’s not to say there aren’t bad things afoot for them but that feeling of foreboding and inevitability really drives it. Colman Domingo’s X is terrifying too and he commands every one of his scenes.
There’s a lot being said here about the vapidity of social media while examining a night in the life of a sex worker. Zola is very clear with Stefani that she should know her worth and not have to give all her earnings away at the end of the night – even when she’s furious with her new frenemy. It’s very much an if you’re going to do it, do it right kind of mentality.
As fun as I did find this, there isn’t a lot of development for the characters. We get that Zola is headstrong and practical, while Stefani is a hot mess supposedly doing all this for her baby but there’s not much else to go on. I don’t think it matters much as it didn’t spoil my interest. I was happy just to take it for what I needed at the time, a Insta-worthy romp with some banging fashion moments and a lot of chaos. Oh, and a special shout out to Amazonian Queen Baybe (Sophie Hall), X’s lover and madam. What a woman.
– Genres: Drama · Crime · Comedy
– IMDb user rating: 6.5
– My score: 4.5/5
– Runtime: 86 mins