Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I'm Back with The Fits

So, I haven’t posted on this blog for a while.  I’ve seen plenty of movies, but haven’t felt inspired to write.  But I’m out of my funk, so to speak, and want to tell you about an indie called The Fits, which was an Official Selection at this year’s Sundance Festival.  

The film’s protagonist is Toni, a tween girl who seemingly spends all of her time at the local community center boxing with her older brother.  However, most, if not all, of the other girls at the center are involved with the championship dance team known as the Lionesses.  Intrigued by the older girls who run the Lionesses, Toni decides to step out of her brother’s cocoon and join the dance team.  Soon after joining the Lionesses, some of the older girls begin to suffer from a mysterious illness that induces a trance-like state and a jerking of the body similar to what one might witness in an old-school church when a parishioner “catches” the Holy Ghost.  Toni and her friends are frightened by what they see and no one understands what’s happening to the girls, especially since the boys at the center are unaffected.  

As the  film progressed, I kept wondering if I was watching some sort of stealth horror movie or some cautionary tale about drinking the water (i.e., Flint, MI).  But it’s not the water, we learn, or some demon possession.  As the “fits” begin to plague more and more Lionesses, the girls start swapping stories of their experiences and a clear line emerges as to those who have had the fits and those who have not.  If this film had a Hollywood treatment, our Toni would probably forge her own way and not be influenced by what everyone else is doing.  But Toni is a keen observer of the other girls and their motivations and she is not confused by the choices she makes.  And so in the final scene, we are treated to a rapturous dance by Toni to an ephemeral song that asks, “Must we choose to be slaves to gravity?”  The other girls ooh and ahh as Toni takes her turn at the fits, and, just as the screen fades to black, Toni’s clear eyes stare back at us.

As my description indicates, The Fits is quite an unusual coming of age story, but that’s a good thing. [And yes, it is a girl's coming of age story, which some might equate to true horror.  But I digress.]  The film’s  uniqueness, however, is not what struck me the most.  I was captivated by the sweet relationship Toni has with her older brother and I was overjoyed to see African-American children being portrayed as children rather than mini-thugs or world-weary mini-adults.  The visuals were also stunning. Indeed, I am always intrigued by films that can convey a rich story with very little dialogue.


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