Maddie Ziegler has a number of credits on her resume, including as a dancer in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and 2021’s The Fallout opposite Jenna Ortega. But there’s a great chance that if you recognize her name, it’s because she appeared on the reality program Dance Moms for multiple seasons, where she was positioned as the star of the team… but put under a lot of pressure due to her talent. Ziegler (and a lot of the girls) always aspired to more while appearing on the show, and her future appears to be on the big screen, though she’s definitely matured as a performer and embraces very adult, sex-positive messages in the edgy, emotional Fitting In, which just world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Given the fact that Maddie Ziegler plays a new girl at the neighborhood high school, I wrongly assumed the title Fitting In would refer to social obstacles that her character, Lindy, faced while meeting new people and competing on the track team. And that’s sort of the case. But writer-director Molly McGlynn embraces far more literal interpretation through her unconventional premise. Because Lindy is coming of age, and beginning to explore sex. She’s growing close to the handsome Adam (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), and experimenting with forms of birth control. Until she runs into a medical snag.
Lindy was born without a uterus. Her reproductive organs are nonexistent, and that includes her vaginal canal. This is why Lindy hasn’t yet had her period, something that had concerned her mother, Rita (Emily Hampshire). And as you might imagine, not having a traditional vaginal canal and reproductive system makes the already complicated act of losing one’s virginity that much more challenging.
This is bold, body-positive material that Maddie Ziegler meets with a brave and no-holds-barred performance. She has shown a willingness to embrace traumatic material with The Fallout, and your heart will both soar and break as Lindy navigates the complexities of her sexual journey. Some of the issues that Lindy and the rest of Molly McGlynn’s characters face might have been avoided if they were honest about their problems. Lindy and Adam, specifically, dance around her reproductive reality as the teenager keeps her sympathetic boyfriend in the dark. Ziegler sells Lindy’s indecisions, but in a world where socially conscious teenagers go out of their way to accept each individual, Lindy could have avoided some heartache by being open and honest earlier.
Over the journey of Fitting In, however, McGlynn and Ziegler explore almost every avenue of a teenage girl’s sexuality, from same-sex relationships to self-love in the absence of physical contact. It’s refreshing to see such candid conversations about what’s “normal” with one’s body, and by putting these talking points in the hand of an influencer like Ziegler, there’s a better chance the message will meet the masses.
Also from the Toronto International Film Festival:
Dumb Money makes the stock market understandable.
Anna Kendrick shines in her directorial debut Woman Of The Hour.
And the guys from Nickelback come across as nice guys in their new documentary.