Review: ‘Marvelous and the Black Hole’ looks for the magic in the life of a grieving teen

A girl with a bruise under her eye sits on the floor against a wall
Miya Cech in the movie “Marvelous and the Black Hole.”
(Nanu Segal)

As far as coming-of-age films go, writer-director Kate Tsang’s debut feature, “Marvelous and the Black Hole,” falls neatly into certain expectations while eschewing others. A Sundance 2021 premiere, the film follows Sammy (Miya Cech of “Always Be My Maybe”), a young teen who recently lost her mother and has been acting out at both school and home as she works through her anger and grief.

Complicating this is the introduction of her father Angus’ (Leonardo Nam) new fiancée as well as a rocky relationship with her sister Patricia (Kannon Omachi), who, when not put in charge of her sister, spends the majority of her time immersed in the world of cosplay and video games. Faced with the threat of intensive schooling for troubled teens, Sammy enrolls instead in a business class at her local community college. It is here that she meets Margot (Rhea Perlman), a children’s magician who has no time for Sammy’s attitude while also recognizing the teen’s need for companionship.

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Disparate as their ages may be, Margot and Sammy soon come to develop a friendship that expands beyond the role of mentor/mentee, with the pair bonding over their shared experiences. Perlman brings her expected zest to the character of Margot, never allowing Sammy to wallow in self-pity or hatred but, at the same time, offering room for vulnerability and sincerity amongst the magician’s pageantry and sleight of hand.

While par for the course in terms of its premise as well as much of its plotting, “Marvelous and the Black Hole” is still somewhat refreshing in its visual style and experimentation. While not all of these flourishes hit their mark with the technical elegance desired, they do still imbue the film with a clear spirit and tone. For Tsang (a writer on animated TV shows including “Adventure Time: Distant Lands” and “Steven Universe”), lightness comes with darkness, and vice versa, and it is coming to terms with this union — rather than fighting it — that makes us all the better.

'Marvelous and the Black Hole'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 21 minutes

Playing: Starts April 22, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica