Lynn Shelton’s latest feature, Sword of Trust, is a comedic tag-along tale following four individuals and their dealings with revisionist history in Birmingham, Alabama. Comedian, actor, podcaster, and now fictional pawn store owner, Marc Maron, brings his talents to a more hefty acting part by playing ‘Mel,’ a southern pawn man with questionable decency. And it begs the question - could there be a more perfect Marc Maron role? It was a matter of time before his talents were used in a starring role on the big screen and Shelton cashes in with this wonderful comedy journey. However, the pieces surrounding the film’s lead are just as talented in their comedic timing and wit, allowing for the full improv monty.
Michaela Watkins and Jillian Bell play two lovers, (Mary and Cynthia) who have come to Alabama to collect an inheritance which quickly turns bust. Due to the debts of Cynthia’s grandfather, the couple is only able to acquire a civil war sword. Along with the item comes documents explaining that the antique is in fact ‘proof,’ that the south won the civil war. The two turn to Mel and his not so sharp assistant, ‘Nathaniel,’ played by Jon Bass, to fetch the highest price. After negotiation and a realization that such an object could bring in $40,000 from a group labeled the ‘Invictusians,’ the two sides join together. In order to claim their potential fortune what follows is a deep dive into the southern underbelly.
What makes this situation fun and entertaining, is the common ground between the four main characters. They need money, and they do not believe in the story they are peddling to get it. Revisionist history is a serious matter that can be truly upsetting and downright crazy, but it also makes for a damn good bit of material to poke fun at.
The challenge of a largely improvised comedy such as this is to make every moment seem genuine and planned as it flows, which is an extremely difficult task. Shelton makes a valiant effort that often wins out, yet there are dramatic moments that may seem forced at times. The film can also take its time moving from scene to scene, but the on-screen connection and charisma between actors does an excellent job disguising what might be considered a relaxed pace.
The performances in this film are just plain great (but not plain). Many will likely come for the Maron, but stay for the comedic chemistry and absurdity that is Sword of Trust. Shelton’s latest indie flick is definitely worth a watch, especially if your appetite is calling for something on the lighter side with maximum charm to boot.
80% on Fried Green Rotten Tomatoes