Formulaic, “Marvelous and the Black Hole” is a coming-of-age tale that eventually wins over its audience with performances and an accessibility.
Miya Cech is quite good as “Sammy,” a rebellious teen with repressed emotions regarding her deceased mother.
Carrying a bad attitude that is only getting worse, Sammy acts out. Disrespect to adults (including back giving lip to her dad and sister) and getting in trouble at school with fighting and just a general nasty disposition is what she is made from since her mother’s passing.
Her father (a particularly good Leonardo Lam) is at his wits’ end and has threatened to send his daughter to a camp for bad kids unless Sammy straightens up.
Dad is not a cliché, as the description would lead us to believe. He has a girlfriend that means the world to him and his love for his two daughters shows.
Sammy meets a magician named “Marvelous Margot” (a great Rhea Perlman) who will, of course, change Sammy’s life and help her grow out of her funk.
Writer/director Kate Tsang’s debut is light as air but gives cinema the rare gift of an Asian-American protagonist.
Sammy begins to spend lots of time with Margot, showing interest in magic and wondering what secrets are held within Margot’s exclusive parties with her magician friends.
The relationship between Sammy and Margo is predictable but ultimately charming. Cech is an endearing young actress while Perlman finally gets a chance to shake off her brazen persona that she has been legged with since playing “Carla” on “Cheers.”
The chemistry between these two actresses steadies the film when it goes off course. In some way, we have all been Sammy and we have all known Margo.
There are some silly moments of fantasy when Sammy imagines getting rid of her father’s girlfriend, complete with over-the-top blood splatter.
Too many moments settle for whimsy and the drama and comedy never find an even balance, but the film is endearing, even when dealing with death and depression amongst teens.
Important issues are raised but Tsang is not even-keeled in her approach. Some scenes are very adult while a few conversations are too saccharine and simplistic.
That said, there exists many a heartfelt moment and we soon realize that Tsang has crafted her film, just like a magic trick. There is something more profound behind the reveals and the screenplay that had me catching my breath more than once.
Tsang eventually hurdles over the clichés and delivers the emotional payoff.
Using the backdrop of magic and memories to explore the story of a confused soul much too young to be so lost, “Marvelous and the Black Hole” is infused with such sweetness and an undeniable purity that I simply could not ignore this film.
Much like the film’s message there is magic here—if you’re willing to see it.