Movie Review (Sundance): ‘Marvelous and the Black Hole’ Can’t Decide on a Tone or Target Audience
Director: Kate Tsang
Writers: Kate Tsang
Stars: Miya Cech, Rhea Perlman, Leonardo Nam
Synopsis: A teenage delinquent teams up with a surly children’s party magician to navigate her dysfunctional family and inner demons.
This is a film that has all the right pieces to work on paper. Whilst the premise can feel like one that is overdone, it has a strong message connected to the core of it and something that many people can relate to. As a coming-of-age tale, this is one that does have development and delves into the subject more than just the teenager growing up. It also has a fun aspect to the narrative, throwing in magic to the plot and using that as a means of escape for our main character, both physically and emotionally.
The film does not get everything right in terms of the filmmaking or editing, but there are some great ideas hidden within here. The film takes liberty of having fun with the images inside out lead character Sammy’s head, whether these are ideas that are brought to life showing her true thoughts on her family, or incorporating a bit of fun with the magic. When the film has black-and-white footage and goes within the fantasy, that is when the film is at its best.
It also has two solid leading performances from Rhea Perlman and newcomer Miya Cech, who is incredibly engaging and has a bright future ahead of her. They not only give great performances separately, but when they come together as well. Their relationship as young girl Sammy (Cech) and magician Margot (Perlman) is captivating, especially when we get to follow their journey and see them grow.
However much I liked their performances though, I struggled to connect with any of the characters in the film. Some of the characters, particularly the rest of Sammy’s family, felt one-dimensional and only really were written to push the narrative forward. Even if I understood the reasons why Sammy was so distant and disconnected from her family, I still found it difficult to actually like her as a person. The only character I actually found myself liking as a person was Sammy’s sister, Patricia, but even she fell into some stereotypes with her character.
There is a storyline that is introduced at the start of the film regarding Sammy being enrolled into a business class. Firstly, the induction of this class and the comparison of her to the other students feels out of place immediately, considering the age gap. However, I really liked the idea of her learning the tricks of running a business and having her grow that way – something that is briefly used in one part of the film. However, this narrative is not the main focus and I wish the film did more with this throughout.
My main issue with this film comes with the tone. In terms of the narrative and the child-like approach to the magic in the film, this plays out like a standard coming-of-age story that would potentially be seen as a Disney Channel Original Movie. I almost wish it continued to go down that route, as it would have made for a fun movie with a suitable target audience and been a film that young children could look up to. However, some of the ideas within this film do seem to be a bit mature, from the amount of swearing our lead character does, the idea of her marking herself with hand-done tattoos, and the over-the-top visual gore presented through her dream sequences – something I love but that messes with the tone of the film. Whilst these are strong ideas, I am not sure if they work for the rest of this movie and what target audience I would have otherwise suggested this film for.
With a few tweaks, there is a strong movie in here. I just wish that some of the writing didn’t feel as flat and that there was a strong demographic group for the film. I’m not convinced that I would be able to recommend this for children given the more mature moments within it, and I am also not sure I could recommend the film to adults due to the simplicity of the story and how the tone can come across as childish in aspects.