NOW IN THEATERS! Here we are, another coming-of-age drama centered on h***y teenagers (often played by actors in their 20s) coming to terms with their sexual identity. For a sex-obsessed culture like ours, movies like this are really the gift that keeps on giving, especially when one factors in the relative success of “classics” like American Pie and newer, more socially responsible entries in the genre like Booksmart, Eighth Grade, and Bottoms. It remains to be seen, though, how many more variations filmmakers can bring to bear on this occasionally staid formula.
Molly McGlynn’s Fitting In is an attempt to bring the sex coming-of-age story into new territory through the highlight of a rare congenital disability affecting the film’s main character, Lindy (Maddie Ziegler). Things are getting hot and heavy with her new boyfriend, Adam (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), and like any teenager, she’s anxious to take the next step. Encouraged by her sex-positive and steadfast friend Vivian (Djouliet Amara), she sets up an appointment to start birth control. Much to her surprise, however, she doesn’t exactly have a fully developed vagina because of a rare congenital condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome (thankfully referred to as MRKH in the film).
“Much to her surprise, however, she doesn’t exactly have a fully developed vagina…”
The diagnosis naturally triggers a wide swath of emotions in Lindy and her Mom, Rita, played by the always-excellent Emily Hampshire. How does a young woman explain to friends and lovers that sex and conception (at least in the traditional, heteronormative sense) aren’t exactly an option? Adolescence is hard enough as it is without such a life-altering change, and audiences subsequently are never without sympathy for what Lindy is going through. Lindy soon meets a kindred spirit in Jax (Ki Griffin), who provides Lindy a much-needed space for expressing her complicated feelings on the developments.
None of this works without the right casting, and Ziegler more than holds her own. Her performance accurately channels all of the uncertainty and confusion that goes along with being a teenager in an age when one’s genitals take on an outsized importance in life. If the cinematic world is just, she’ll have an opportunity to branch out from here. Emily Hampshire is a natural as the cool mom. Still, even her more tender moments feel organic and absent any of the histrionics that one may expect from a maternal character. She may just be the coolest Canadian around — and that’s a high bar.
The market for this genre is definitely oversaturated, but that doesn’t hold back McGlynn from introducing an entertaining coming-of-age drama that the YA crowd should eat up. Fitting In is definitely a product of its moment, and there are moments when McGlynn is too eager to cast judgment on others (derogatory references to a jockish character’s crucifix feel particularly antagonistic). Still, the enjoyment factor is never seriously threatened. Raging hormones as teenagers make it seem like sex is often the be-all and end-all, and it’s refreshing to see a sex comedy that recognizes that it’s really not all that simple for all of us.
"…entertaining coming of age drama that the YA crowd should eat up..."