Zola ★★★★

I was expecting some kind of glossy, A24-endorsed arthouse spin on something like “Hustlers,” what I got was something far more sinister and disquieting. There is a quantum leap from “Lemon” to this in terms of Janicza’s ability to land these hairpin tonal pivots without breaking a sweat, and while “Zola” itself is insanely watchable and funny as a gals-gone-bad road trip odyssey, it’s downright electrifying as an interrogation of the arrogance of whiteness, and the ephemeral, ultimately disposable nature of social media friendships. Just because you meet someone and forge a bond with them online, doesn’t mean you know them - after all, it all starts with a meet-cute in a Hooter’s restaurant before the motel shakedowns and the mounting malaise and depression set in.

Everyone is honestly phenomenal in this: Taylour Paige’s reaction shots are note-perfect, Riley Keough’s Bhad Bhabie impression is authentically frightening, Colman Domingo continues to be The Man in everything, and Nicholas Braun dabs/raps along to the majority of “Hannah Montana” by Migos and dresses like some of the worst dudes I went to high school with. The climax is a rude, abrupt crash back to earth after 90 minutes spent in a bubblegum nightmare reality, and while there’s a part of me that wishes it wasn’t so anticlimactic, I also wonder if maybe Bravo knows there’s no real resolute end to this story because all the hot-button issues that her film wrestles with are not things that end tidily, but are instead things that are reckoned with and unpacked over time.

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