A fascinating and ultimately disturbing rumination on peer pressure, hysteria, conformity and the price of social acceptance, “The Fits” may give you some as you wrestle with its ending. But that’s OK.

Meet Toni (Royalty Hightower), an 11-year-old tomboy who hangs out at a boxing gym in a community center on the west side of Cincinnati. She’s a gym rat, helping her older brother, Jermaine (De Sean Minor), keep the place clean, training hard, studying boxing under Jermaine’s tutelage.

But ... she’s the only girl who hangs out around the boxers. Whereas, elsewhere in the community center, there are plenty of girls participating in an award-winning dance team, running through the halls screaming for joy, hoisting trophies.

Toni decides to give dance a try. She’s certainly fit enough. But at first she’s ungainly and the dance team is as cliquish as you’d expect. But Toni keeps at it.

Then one day one of the captains of the dance team — which is facing a major competition — has some sort of seizure right in the middle of practice. The girl crumples to the ground, eyes rolling back in her head. Paramedics are called, the girl is taken to a hospital.

Everybody thinks it’s a fluke, but the next day another older girl has a fit, again falling to the ground. And then, each day, one of the older girls falls victim to a seizure.

Is it something in the water system? Is it some sort of contagious bug? Toni’s not too worried because its only affecting the older girls. But then younger girls start having seizures, as well. By this time nobody’s calling paramedics anymore; everyone seems to recover and be just fine.

Beyond that, all the victims have something in common: They are the Sisterhood of the Fits. And again, Toni is on the outside looking in.

“The Fits” is the first narrative feature from director Anna Rose Holmer and it’s a promising start. Using a lot of real-life West End of Cincinnati dancers and athletes in the cast lends the film an authentic feel without ever feeling amateurish, and the specificity of Toni’s story resonates outward.

What if the most normal behavior becomes abnormal behavior? Isn’t every day a performance of sorts?And when should the individual give in to the group? These are the questions Toni, and the audience, have to face.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.

Twitter: @toomuchTomLong

‘The Fits’


Not rated

Running time: 72 minutes

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