Thursday, September 8, 2016

[Review] The Fits

Anna Rose Homer makes a striking directorial debut with The Fits, a unique and difficult-to-categorize psychological drama about adolescence, seen through the eyes of a young girl.

11-year-old Toni (Royalty Hightower) is a confident and athletic boxer. One day at the rec center, she glimpses upon a dance drill class and decides to join the squad. Seems like a typical coming-of-age competition flick, right? Wrong. Things get real weird when Toni's teammates sporadically begin to have seizure-like fainting spells in a pretty dramatic and contorting manner.

It's strange, mysterious, and ambiguous. What exactly is causing these episodes? Unsafe water?Cooties? It Follows but for kids? Puberty hysteria? ("It's pretty much happening to all the older girls.") A metaphor for the first period? ("It hasn't happened to any of the boys.") The latter two are my guess. But even those doesn't fully fit, because the teachers aren't even sure what's going on. That said, all the adults in this film are relegated to the peripheral, sometimes even blurred or chopped out. If it weren't for their clear voices, it'd be the equivalent of the grownups in "Charlie Brown".

Every frame is exquisitely shot, radiating with lyrical verve--kinetic and poetic. The film is minimal with dialogue, and instead takes a quiet, naturalistic, observational approach of curiosity. What initially appears to be a run-of-the-mill rec center, takes on a singular magical realism quality, while the sound design still intently captures the grit of all the echoed claps, steps, bounces, and punches.

A few scenes in the The Fits don't really push the story forward and they can come off as a bit repetitive, even given the whoppingly short 71-minute runtime. And the film might just be too lo-fi and abstruse for some audiences. But either way, Anna Rose Homer and Royalty Hightower are names that we'll probably be seeing more of in the future.

( 7.5/10 )

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