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The Fits

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on Aug 1, 2016

Played in writer/director/producer Anna Rose Holmer’s terrific, formally assured dramatic feature debut, The Fits, by the self-possessed and emotionally transparent Royalty Hightower, Toni has been drawn away from the comforting routine of her boxing practice by the sounds, music and movement of the Lionesses and, by extension, the more adult world they represent. But soon after she becomes one of “the Crabs” — the troupe’s newest members — that adult world delivers her a mystery. One by one, starting with Lioness leader Legs, and then Karisma (Inayah Rodgers), the dancers are struck by sudden epileptic fits.

What makes The Fits such a remarkable and rigorously impressive debut film is its skillful devotion to Toni’s point of view. Often shooting with shallow depth of field, and isolating Toni in the frame, Holmer and her gifted cinematographer, Paul Yee, make the minute tremblings of Toni palpable to us while also — aided by a deliberately sparse screenplay — allowing her to retain an essential mystery. Toni’s relationships with friends and family — particularly brother Jermaine (Da’Sean Minor) and friend Beezy (Alexis Neblett) — feel poignant and true, yet this is a loner’s story. Holmer and her collaborators — writer/producer Lisa Kjerulff and writer/editor Saela Davis — resist the temptation to make the film more of a mystery than it should be, or to fall back on the feel-good tropes of so many other high school sports and dance movies. The film’s final uplift is both authentically joyful and unexpectedly strange. (Scott Macaulay)

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