Two Cents “Girl Stories” Series — THE FITS

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

For the next few weeks here at Two Cents, we’re getting in touch with our feminine side and focusing on GIRL STORIES, a subject which is no more or less than exactly what it sounds like — stories about girls.

The critically acclaimed but underseen The Fits wowed our reviewer Elizabeth Stoddard when she praised it as “ a beautiful remedy to the common summer blockbuster”, and it was because of her appreciation for the movie that we decided to feature it as a film club pick. The film highlights the work of two new talents, director Anna Rose Helmer in her (narrative) debut, and young actress Royalty Hightower, whose quiet perspective imbues the film and its protagonist with her fierce spirit as Toni, a tomboyish adolescent girl starting to embrace her femininity and find acceptance with the dominant clique. But set against a coming of age story is a dark thread of menace as the girls experience fainting spells and seizures. Are “the fits” a public health issue, or something else entirely?

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

Our series on GIRL STORIES continues with perhaps my favorite Dario Argento film: Phenomena! A young Jennifer Connelly stars as a girl with peculiar psionic powers, thrust into a gialloesque murder mystery. Phenomena is both beautiful and grotesque, a heavy metal nightmare. Not sold yet? Her costars are Donald Pleasence and a chimpanzee. The movie just hit Blu-ray in a limited edition Steelbook from Synapse Films, and is also available streaming on Amazon Prime!

We’re especially interested in highlighting new female voices on the column, so ladies, if you’ve ever considered joining, this is the perfect time!

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)!

The Team

Elizabeth Stoddard:

Watching the drama unfold, the viewer is as confounded and skeptical as Toni about what is causing the older girls to seize and thrash about. Is it the water at the rec center? Or is something less tangible?

While the viewer puzzles the cause, one becomes enraptured with director Holmer’s vision. Such clean, composed shots make up this work! The locations may be limited — most of the action is based at the rec center and surrounding area — but we are shown so many different angles and views that it never gets stale. The set design and costuming includes pops of gold among purples and greys. The gold is so ubiquitous that I wondered if there was a deeper thematic meaning to it… besides the dance team being named the Lionesses.

As mesmerizing as it is mysterious, this movie about adolescence and dance moves as swiftly as a ballet. The tension of the drama is helped along by a sparse score which includes a creepy reed instrument solo and percussive hand claps. No matter my suspicions about the mystery, the closing moments left me with chills. Holmer’s film is the kind that reveals more upon each viewing and will likely inspire theories and many parking lot conversations afterwards. (elizabeth stoddard)

Justin Harlan:

I absolutely hated the soundtrack to this film. I get what the composers were going for but it was far more irritating than effective.

The movie is so strong in every other way that it really doesn’t matter in the long run. As I got sucked in more and more, the soundtrack faded away more and more, until I didn’t notice it all. The acting, the tension, the actual filming of the movie, these are all brilliant. It’s a pretty incredible film overall that really makes you think about class and poverty, as well as adolescence and the struggle to fit in. There are moments of levity, beautiful picturesque glimpses into regular kids being kids, and scenes that had me on the edge of my seat.
I don’t know that I appreciate the ending and I definitely didn’t appreciate the soundtrack, but I truly appreciate the film. And… I also find myself very excited for the follow up film(s) from a promising director. (Justin Harlan)

Brendan Foley:

I don’t think I’m quite on the right wavelength for The Fits. The film is a haunting enumeration of the trials of growing up, finding your place in the world, and the trials that young women and girls go through as they deal with a world that is so frequently hostile for so little reason. But for one reason or another, I felt a distance from the film, admiring the craft, appreciating the themes, without ever feeling stung in the soul the way that, say, Moonlight’s triptych of stories wowed me by the end.

It needs to be said that debut filmmaker Anna Rose Holmer possesses a master’s touch right from the jump, with a strong eye for both the everyday and the ethereal, and a knack for interweaving them together. The fits of the title lend the film a horror vibe that grows more pronounced as the film continues and the mystery surrounding these seizures deepens. Holmer also clearly has an incredible talent for working with actors, given the tremendous performances from the young cast.

While The Fits didn’t entirely come together for me, it more than suggests that this filmmaker has some masterpieces still to come. Can’t wait to see them. (Brendan Foley)

Austin Vashaw:

When I was in middle school, there was an especially idiotic self-mutilation fad that spread like wildfire among my more moronic classmates. The usual method involved twisting or rubbing a pencil eraser on their arms or legs until the skin broke, trying to make the wound as large as possible. These dumbasses would proudly wear the resulting scabs like battle scars. (A quick Google search confirms that this fad is no isolated incident).

This was in my experience a predominantly male phenomenon, but I was reminded of it when watching the girls of The Fits. What’s so intriguing about the story is that “the fits” are an open mystery — on the one hand, the current events of Flint, Michigan are ever present in our minds as we consider that the local tap water may be toxic. Is this predominantly black community victim to a similarly unethical and racist bureaucracy? And yet there’s also a faddish and peer-driven aspect to the bandwagon fashion in which the girls excitedly chatter about their seizure experiences as if joining a club, which makes one wonder just what the nature of the problem really is.

Like Justin, I disliked certain aspects of the film including its music and ending, but it’s certainly an intriguing premise and subject matter, especially as the backdrop of a coming-of-age story. (Austin Vashaw)

Get it at Amazon:
The Fits – [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Amazon Video]

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