Directed by: Anna Rose Holmer.
Written by: Anna Rose Holmer and Saela Davis & Lisa Kjerulff.
Starring: Royalty Hightower (Toni), Alexis Neblett (Beezy), Da'Sean Minor (Jermaine),
Lauren Gibson (Maia), Makyla Burnam (Legs), Inayah Rodgers (Karisma), Antonio A.B. Grant Jr. (Donté).
The Fits, written and directed by Anna Rose Holmer, is only 71 minutes long – but that is the perfect runtime for this mysterious, thought provoking film. Any shorter, and it’s a short film – and may not have enough time to get on its unique rhythm as it does so effortlessly – yet any longer, and the largely plotless film may become too repetitive and dull. 71 minutes is short for a feature – but perfect for The Fits.
The movie takes place entirely inside a community center in Cincinnati. When it opens, Toni (Royalty Hightower) is a 12 year old girl – but essentially a tomboy – tagging along with her brother to the boxing gym at the center, and looking like a pretty good boxer in her own right. Then one day, through a window, she spots the Lioness’ practicing – this is the center’s female dance troop – and Toni is drawn to them. When they hold auditions for new members, Toni tries out – and makes the team. Then something mysterious starts happening – a number of the older girls have something that can only be described as “the fits” – they drop to the ground and convulse, their jerky movements later to be incorporated into future dances. This only happens to each girl once, they are fine afterwards – and no one can explain why. They start to compare notes as to what it was like – and girls who haven’t had them yet, including Toni, start to wonder if they will.
The Fits is not a movie that will end up answering all the questions it raises – and it’s all the richer for that. Really, I’m not sure an answer would suffice – or rather, a single answer would be reasonable, considering it could be read in any number of ways from puberty, to something more mysterious and otherworldly. An explanation would also hurt the wonderful, surreal tone of the film – and would likely require a lot of explanation, which hurts a film that doesn’t contain a lot of dialogue. It would also hurt the ending of the film, which is perfect as it is.
The Fits is a wonderfully made movie – it takes place entirely in that community center, which the filmmakers make look large and imposing – the entire world of these characters. The sound design heightens the surreal, unreal tone of the film as well. This is director Anna Rose Holmer’s first feature – and it’s a marvelously accomplished one.
The Fits isn’t quite a great film – I think it’s an extremely well made one, and has a fine lead performance by Hightower – that rare child performed who can hold the screen without saying anything. While I don’t think it needs to explain everything, the fact that it explains next to nothing, makes it seem perhaps a little more profound, or deep, than it actually is. But it’s a great debut for Holmer – a director to watch for sure. If she can do this, with almost no money, imagine what she can do with a budget.