The marketing for The Fits sold the audience on an offbeat story featuring a group of unknown actors. The movie itself delivers on this promise and so much more.
Royalty Hightower plays Toni, a young girl who seems to be training to be a boxer and works out in the same gym as her older brother and his friends. One day she sees a group of girls who are part of a community dance troupe and, intrigued by their moves and attitude, joins up. Things take a turn, though, when some of the girls start having strange and undiagnosed attacks. These fits run through the group without explanation causing panic, for Toni, even more uncertainty than she already has.
What’s remarkable about the movie is how normally it treats everything. Toni is just a girl who, throughout it all, seems extraordinarily non-plussed about what’s going on around her. She transitions from young boxer to aspiring dancer smoothly, showing her inherent skill and ability to control her body. But then as other dancers start dropping around her and other strange things occur she takes it all in stride, never freaking out or appearing overly-distressed by events.
In some ways that speaks to the resiliency of youth. She’s not flustered at all by what’s going on because kids are often tough like that, riding out the waves and unpredictable moments life sends their way. So Toni just keeps on keeping on, surely aware of how this is all unusual but stoic in the face of so much change.
What’s best about the movie is that it never presents Toni as being an Anakin Skywalker-like “chosen one” character. She’s just a girl, trying to do something different with her life and competing in a fierce environment. She deals with making new friends, staying true to the people she’s known all her life and otherwise making her way. There’s nothing special about Toni that’s shown until the very end and the movie is stronger for it.
Hightower is magnificent as Toni, always underplaying what would have been “big” moments in other movies. She’s subtle and sublime and conveys both the curiously Toni approaches much of her life with and the resolve she has to do something with her life.
The Fits is streaming now on Amazon Prime.