Royalty Hightower as Tony in The Fits
Royalty Hightower as Tony in The Fits

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The Fitswhich screens tonight at SIFF— 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 spaceship.

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. The spirit of Steadicam-era Stanley Kubrick haunts this coming-of-age tale as horror-movie musical.

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