Marvelous and the Black Hole, while it can come off as an angsty teenage film, it doesn’t push its lead to move on or get over it but harness that anger into something good.
|Screenplay By||Kate Tsang|
|Date Released (Sundance Film Festival)||1/31/2021|
|Genre(s)||Comedy, Drama, Young Adult|
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13 going on 14-year-old Sammy just lost her mom, her dad, Angus, is dating this woman named Marianne, and Sammy’s older sister drowns herself in this video game, Kingdom Cog. Of everyone, Sammy is struggling the most with her mother’s death, and while Angus has paid for her to go to therapy, he isn’t there for her physically. Thus, Sammy has become a bit reckless, even cuts/ tattoos herself as a means of expression.
Now, while Angus never picks up on the cuts on Sammy’s leg, he does see her destruction, the black eye, and so he gives the ultimatum of a reform camp or a community college course. Thus leading to Sammy encountering Margot, a magician, and though their relationship begins by force, it blossoms in such a way that it allows them both to get out of their own way and seek out the thing which they felt they lost and didn’t have the energy to seek out again.
Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Reason(s) for Film Rating: There is some cursing from Sammy and her playing out how she could murder someone – and you see fake guys spill on the floor. Also, Sammy tattoos herself, but this could be taken as her cutting herself – it’s up to you. Note: she does also tattoo Margot with a circle, but before that, it seems very much like her cathartic release.
- Jump Scares/ Laughs/ Tear-Jerking Moments: Sammy being a rude kid will at times make you laugh, and when she is forced to realize other people have similar issues to her, if not worse, you will breakdown and cry. So here is hoping you’ve been drinking water lately.
Cast & Characters
Please Note: This is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.
13 going on 14, Sammy is in a place where she just wants to scream, be destructive, and be left alone. However, perhaps before she is ready, Angus pushes her to end this grief and destruction phase. But with no idea what she wants to do with her life, it’s hard to move to the next thing.
A newly single father, Angus often pours himself into work, with minimal time spent with his daughters. But, while he isn’t as active in their lives as Sammy would sometimes want, he has made the time to date and seems rather serious about Marianne after 6 months of dating.
From Budapest, Margot has spent most of her life doing magic for in making people, specifically children, smile and be in awe, she feels like she is honoring a magician who did the same for her many years ago.
Patricia is Sammy’s older sister who is obsessed with this Kingdom Cog game.
By day a coder, or video game designer, and by night Angus’ girlfriend, Patricia is okay with Marianne, but Sammy would like to cut her in half – in a way that would kill her.
Everyone Dealing With Grief Differently
Grief is processed by people in a multitude of ways ranging from Angus overworking himself, Patricia drowning it out with the distraction of a video game, or Sammy feeling the need to make her mental and emotional pain either physical. Be it by cutting into her skin and making tattoos or destroying things. And it is in getting these three different takes, and you seeing everyone left to their devices that you are reminded how each one is unhealthy, it is just only one type that ever really gets noticed.
Sammy Not Being A Stereotypical Asian Girl
Fully recognizing I’m not Asian, so I’m skating on thin ice saying this, but I gotta admit we loved Sammy not being any form of an Asian stereotype. Especially since it felt natural and that Tsang or Cech wasn’t forcing the idea that Sammy wasn’t like the other girls. Rather, she was just this girl who, with often being left to her own devices, and being 13/14, was in the process of discovering herself. Which, yes, was complicated by her mother’s death but didn’t stop just because of that tragedy.
And rather than become small, and Margot open her up, change her even, all Margot taught her was a means to channel who she was into something constructive. Which was so beautiful for it both affirmed who Sammy was becoming comfortable being while giving her the means to maintain that person beyond this chapter of her life.
How It Evolves As The Film Goes On
To be honest, there were times, early on in the film, I worried this would become boring and mushy in a very corny way. However, as Margot opened up about herself, and you see how Perlman and Cech play off each other, it goes beyond expectations. Not just due to Sammy cursing either, but because it really wants to touch upon how a person violently claws at anything, if not everything, when there is a void in their life and that darkness is sucking them in.
One of the best examples being how Margot dealt with the events of her life in Budapest and the struggle to regain the ability to smile later on in life. That whole story is one of the major moments that turn on the waterworks.
You Gotta Find Your People
When it comes to LGBT+ and movies focused on people of color, one overarching theme is you must find your people. Sometimes that means finding people who look like you, have the same interest, or know your pain. In Marvelous and the Black Hole, it is about finding people who know your pain, who are kind of weird like you, yet accept you as you are – but hold you to be a better version of that person. Because you can see Angus just wants Sammy to not be a headache after a while, for single parenthood is taxing. Yet, while there is an attitude and a lot of patience required, Margot breaks through and gives Sammy the home she may not feels exist where her room is. Thus you get rather invested in Margot and Sammy’s relationship.
On The Fence
Is It Wrong I Wish Margot Was Asian?
We often talk about the joys and pains of diversity in media, and one of the pains increasingly is that you see less films and shows focused on just one culture, one ethnicity. It’s unfortunate for Black Americans, but we have so many films and shows that solely focused on our experience in America, from comedies to dramas, coming of age stories, and more.
When it comes to Asian Americans, however? That isn’t the case. As shown by Crazy Rich Asians’ release, finding stories that solely focus on Asian Americans, and don’t just include them as a best friend, often without bringing any sense of non-American culture along, can be tough. And unfortunately, it seems, while Asian characters now can bring part of themselves to their friendships, school, and workplaces, it is still often when they are in the minority.
So with Marvelous and The Black Hole, I must admit there was a part of me that wished Margot was Asian, as well as the community she had amongst magicians. This isn’t to say Perlman didn’t do a good job but more so giving the film to be more specific.
This isn’t to discount Angus speaking Mandarin, the last name of his family, or how the Empress and the Moon plays a part in the film. It’s just the desire for Asian Americans to have the same back catalog others have, from coming of age stories and more, and thinking all an Asian Margot could have given. Be it switching her from being from Budapest to one of the many Asian countries, and be it her or one of her friends, normalizing the struggle of Asian Americans, especially when working harder doesn’t make you any happier or satisfied with life.
Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
Marvelous and the Black Hole is not to be underestimated. Cech, in combination with Perlman, present an increasingly emotional film that will have you cry.
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