The Fits concerns a pre-pubescent tomboy named Toni who prefers boxing lessons with her older brother to being part of the girl’s dance troop that practices one gymnasium over. One day she notices the group fun the dance girls are having and decides to give the group a chance. She slowly integrates into the troop and makes friends, Then, mysteriously, the older girls in the group begin having violent, seizure-like shaking spells colloquially referred to as “the fits” by the people in the community. Toni tries to navigate between the all-male boxing group and the all-female dance troop while worrying about these “fits.”
The Fits is a coming-of-age story. Toni is on the cusp of young womanhood, and while the fits are an actual occurrence in the film, they are also a manifestation of her trepidations at crossing into the world of women. Her new, young friends are curious about “the fits” too, and some of them want to experience them while others do not.
The Fits is a moody film. It’s story is told via the movement of bodies rather than through its plot or dialogue. Toni is a quiet girl. She watches more than she talks. When she’s alone, she either practices boxing or dancing. Depending on which group she’s leaning toward, she favors one or the other activity. She even tries to combine them, but that doesn’t work.
“The fits” are an eerie addition to an otherwise straight-forward, realistic story. They make Toni’s encroaching womanhood an ominous proposition. This otherworldliness is heightened by the film’s atonal, droning score. Though this film is set in the inner city and involves an all black cast of boxers and dancers, there isn’t a hip-hop song in earshot, as there would be in other movies. This is a brilliant decision on the part of the filmmakers. It makes what would otherwise be a cliche, feel-good movie into an unsettling film, even if it is inspiring in the end. Why shouldn’t a young, black girl’s coming-of-age story feel most similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey? It too is a coming-of-age story, after all.
The Fits is only seventy-two minutes long. It’s a economically-told tale. This gives the film weight. Like a haiku, brevity yields power. Every moment really matters in this movie. Every step Toni takes toward one side of her identity or the other feels dire. The Fits is a great portrait of young adulthood when everything is the most important thing that’s ever happened to you in your life and when the adult world is a scary and inexplicable place. The Fits gets it in a way most young adult movies do not.