“Marvelous and the Black Hole” – Fall in [MOVIE REVIEW]

Rhea Perlman in "Marvelous and the Black Hole." Photo courtesy of Film Rise.

Miya Cech as Sammy in “Marvelous and the Black Hole.” Photo courtesy of Film Rise.

“Marvelous and the Black Hole,” written and directed by Kate Tsang, proves the point that you don’t have to be original to be good. Tsang’s film trods the well-worn path of teenage angst with a predictable storyline and an ending that is preordained but still gives us a film worth watching for the audience for which it was intended. Perhaps it’s because the film is close to her own origin story, or perhaps it’s because the well of teenage anger is so deep, but in any case the story of Sammy Ko’s loss still resonates.

Sammy has been acting out in school. When we first meet her, waiting for her father Angus in the principal’s office, she has a giant shiner, the result of a fist fight at school. Her behavior and her grades have been going downhill since the loss of her mother and now that slide is precipitous because her father has introduced his new girlfriend Marianne into the family trio that includes Sammy’s sister Patricia. 

Angus has given Sammy a choice — a summer school business class or exile to a summer camp for juvenile delinquents. Something of a Hobson’s Choice (that’s a kind of no-win situation) she opts for the class. The assignment — come up with an idea for a business and present it to the other students. To her, this is idiotic and she rebels by cutting class. Actually putting a young teen in a situation like that illustrates her father’s lack of understanding and empathy.

Kannon as Patricia, Leonardo Nam as Angus, and Miya Cech as Sammy in “Marvelous and the Black Hole.” Photo courtesy of Film Rise.

A chance meeting with Margot, a surly magician who makes her living performing shows for children opens up some avenues for healing. She becomes Sammy’s lifeline to recovery. Margot has loss and anger in her past and recognizes how unanchored Sammy is. Margot’s loss may be buried but the anger lingers and is only kept in check by the satisfaction she feels making children laugh and teaching her craft to others. 

No new ground is broken. It is inevitable that tough, wizened Margot will be the one to reach Sammy. Everyone will grow just a little and everyone will learn something in their personal encounters. No matter the clichéd material or the obvious resolutions, the story of loss and recovery is universal.This is strictly YA material and will, one hopes, end up on an appropriate streaming channel to reach the adolescents it aims for.

The cast is good, led by the charmingly curmudgeonly Rhea Perlman as Margot. Her sleight of hand is decent, her empathetic acting is better. Miya Cech, an up and coming young actress with lots of episodic credits, is convincing as a lost teen seeking what she can’t have — her dead mother and a father who is present. That her transformation at the end is a bit too abrupt is the fault of the writing, not her acting.

The others, Leonardo Nam as Angus, Kannon as Patricia, and Paulina Lule as Marianne are all fine although character development is in short supply. Again, this is a fault in the writing. Seeing a story centered on Asian Americans is a welcome addition to family fare. It shouldn’t be so unusual.

Opening Thursday April 21 at the Laemmle Royal and streaming Friday April 29 on Amazon, Microsoft Movies, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube.


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