THE STORY - An 11-year-old tomboy (Royalty Hightower) tries to fit in with her peers after joining an all-girl dance team.
THE CAST - Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Da'Sean Minor, Lauren Gibson, Makyla Burnam, Inayah Rodgers & Antonio A. B. Grant Jr.
THE TEAM - Anna Rose Holmer (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME - 72 Minutes
THE GOOD - Confident direction from Anna Rose Holmer with a physical performance from Royalty Hightower
THE BAD - Viewers will struggle with the film's ambiguity
THE OSCAR WINS - None
THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10
By Matt N.
There has been much conversation over what exactly first time director Anna Rose Holmer’s “The Fits” is exactly about. Personally, I saw it as a girl’s journey towards adolescents as exhibited by “the fits” which many of the women experience within the film. it’s bold, enigmatic and confident work from Anna Rose Holmer backed by a physical performance from Royalty Hightower. The film may not give us any answers to its mysteries but it still makes Anna Rose Holmer a talent to watch out for.
“The Fits” is a psychological drama from the perspective of and 11-year-old tomboy named Toni (Royalty Hightower). She works hard at her brother’s boxing gym and practices her own fighting technique and works out often. She is, however, having a difficult time adjusting to an all girls dance team where she not only needs to practice her dance moves but also must be able to fit in with the other girls. Strangely enough, one by one, the girls all start experiencing violent fits which many believe to be related to the public water supply. Direct answers are never given as Toni watches on and wonders if she too will succumb to these fits.
“The Fits” is an incredibly brief film (Barely over an hour) that focuses its attention of Toni through the eye-popping cinematography by Paul Yee. The world which Toni inhabits feels large and full of mystery despite it being very familiar locations such as a school’s auditorium or a gym. The use of slow motion allows Anna Rose Holmer to dial in on Toni’s face and body as the sound drops out and all we can hear is the heavy breathing of the competitive girl. We are put into her headspace and see the world through her eyes. “The Fits” accomplishes this with assured direction instead of elaborate writing. It’s a film that wants you to feel through images and actions. not through dialogue or story. It’s strange and alluring many times throughout, especially when otherworldly elements start creeping their way into the narrative. It not only takes the viewer by surprise but it also manages to surprise us in that the film does not give any direct answers to what is exactly going on nor why is it happening. However, it does not leave the film being too ambiguous that it is a frustrating experience. We know that Toni has this idea of who she wants to be but is still changing regardless and settling into a new phase of her life that comes with all pre-adolescent girls. How she chooses to welcome this change is where the heart of the story is in “The Fits.”
As said earlier, technical aspects of “The Fits” are truly fantastic from the cinematography to the sound and even down to the score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans which helps to keep the film feeling atmospheric, uneasy and distorted. The song which plays over the film’s final sequence is liberating and does a fine job of making us understand that it is not fear that we should be experiencing for Toni for she has no choice but to accept that which life is handing over to her. Will she continue to be a part of the dance team? Her brother’s boxing gym? Or something else entirely? “The Fits” feels more like a memory of a now adult Toni, looking back on what a scary and yet simple time this was in her life. Maybe that’s how we’ll look back on “The Fits” as well for helmer Anna Rose Holmer as I’m very excited to see how she grows as a filmmaker and what other exciting projects she’ll put out next.