The Fits introduces two startling talents: filmmaker Anna Rose Holmer, who has a preternaturally steady touch, and actress Royalty Hightower, who has a Sphinx-like gaze—until she smiles and her joy illuminates the screen. Hightower plays Toni, a Cincinnati 11-year-old who likes to box. At the local recreation center, she wears utilitarian workout wear and maintains a serious expression while taping her wrists and sparring with her older brother. But she's intrigued by the loud, sparkly-dressed girls of the Lincoln Lionesses drill team. She watches them as if they had just stepped out of a space ship.
The minimalist jazz score, pitched between Eric Dolphy and Gil Mellé's Andromeda Strain soundtrack, underscores her fascination. So she joins the team and exhibits more strength than grace, but she makes a friend in pom-pom-haired Beezy, the only girl smaller than her. Then the older dancers, with their lip gloss and dip-dyed hair, start to have inexplicable fits.
Is it something in the environment or is it a psychological phenomenon? (The adolescent hysteria of Arthur Miller's The Crucible comes to mind.) Another possibility: Adulthood is exerting its dominance. It's not so much that Holmer romanticizes childhood but that she presents adolescence as an obliterating monster. Run, dodge, feint—it'll get you in the end, and the child will be no more. The spirit of Steadicam-era Stanley Kubrick haunts this coming-of-age tale as horror-movie musical.