How far would you go to fit in?
11-year-old Toni helps her brother, Jermaine, maintain the Lincoln Community Gym. Her brother trains there for boxing, but also cleans, sweeps, and otherwise keeps the gym in tip top shape. She trains with him until its time to clean the gym. Because they’re the children of a single mother, Jermaine has to keep Toni under a close watch, effectively isolating her from her schoolmates. It’s only when she discovers the Lionesses, a dance troupe that rehearses in the gym, that she starts to form friendships outside of her family.
Set in a poor and black-majority section of Cleveland, elements of poverty and race creep in around the edges. Their mother works all day and all night, making Jermaine the defacto father. Jermaine has to clean his way through training. In an attempt to fit in, Toni and a couple of girls pierce her ears using a needle in the bathroom, causing Jermaine to fret about where she got the money for the piercings. That’s when things get weird.
Starting with their captains, one by one the girls of the Lionesses start having epileptic-like seizures. They’re less seizures than fits. Each fit is different and attuned to each girl. Is it the water? Did somebody fuck over the water system Flint style? Or, is this a new fad? Are the girls doing this to fit in? Or, is there something else going on?
Writer/Director Anna Rose Holmer researched mass phenomena from a 2007 fit of twitching arms and legs to a Dancing Plague that struck Prague in 1518. But, she provides no direct answers. The Fits isn’t a movie where everybody is constantly talking and dropping exposition bombs. It’s a slice of life where the characters are already in motion, and their life is revealed through small snippets of dialogue thrown off casually. But, there’s hardly any dialogue to wade through. This is an all too brief mood piece that ponders loneliness and isolation and the extremes that you’ll go through to fit in.
This is more of a mood piece than a dramatic play with emphasis placed on actions and the body over speeches and dialogue. Holmer gives a muted romantic dream-like quality to Toni’s coming of age, which emphasizes the shock of the girls having seizures in the middle of practice. There’s a detachment and a romantic nature to the proceedings; as if Holmer was signaling the commonality of the proceedings even as she found them fascinating. After all, the seizures are just one manifestation of the daily rituals teenagers participate in to belong with their peers. Whether that ritual is having seizures, drinking to the point of puking, wearing makeup, or wearing pink on Fridays, young people set up common signals and experiences to allow you into their clique. The Fits is blissfully open to interpretation, never nailing down a cause nor condemning people for their behavior. It’s just a story of youthful assimilation.
The Fits streams for free on Amazon Prime