Top Ten Movies of 2016 — Number Eight

fits

The impulse to belong is powerful, especially for girls of a certain age. In The Fits, the feature directorial debut of Anna Rose Holmer, the girl trying to find her place in the world is Toni (Royalty Hightower). She regularly accompanies her brother (Da’Sean Minor) to the local community center, where he trains as a boxer. Toni half-heartedly participates in that brutish gym work until she spies the workouts of a dance troupe in an adjacent gym. Shortly after she falls in with that group, individual girls on the squad start falling victim to unexplained, seizure-like attacks, each a little different than the one that came before. Holmer structures this spreading of spasming ailment with the dread of a horror film, and, as in one of those scary movies, the dread has a strange allure. Holmer has traced the film’s inspiration to her own fascination with incidents of contagious hysteria throughout history, and she’s quick to point out the The Fits is about collective identity rather than conformity. The latter point is key to understanding the power of the film. There is a lack of judgment to Holmer’s approach because she doesn’t see a problem in this group of girls finding their sense of self through individualized mirroring of others. Instead, it’s a normal, understandable part of growing up, worth celebrating with a fiercely celebratory dance or the slyest of smiles.

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