I enjoy Lynn Shelton’s work overall but I think Sword of Trust is her best feature to date. It doesn’t seem like an improv-based film at all; it plays as well as a scripted comedy but manages to retain an air of spontaneity, constantly throwing us curves—and laughs.
The set-up is likably off-kilter. One morning, Birmingham pawnshop owner Marc Maron is handed an oddity from two female customers (Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins), an old sword from the Civil War that may change our understanding of how that fateful event played out. This impels Maron to do some research, with the dubious help of his sad-sack assistant (Jon Bass), and leads all four fortune-hunters on a strange and surprising adventure.
Standup comic and master interviewer Maron has become a natural on-camera, as fans of GLOW can attest. This part is tailor-made for him; his interaction with Bass and the other oddballs they meet on their journey plays to his strengths. (He also provided the bluesy guitar score for the film.) Shelton provides him and his castmates with the raw material for a quirky odyssey through the backwoods (and lunatic fringe) of the South. Such young “old pros” as Toby Huss and Dan Bakkedahl dial up the absurdity of the plotline as they turn up along the road.
Sword of Trust is light and satisfying. It left me while a smile on my face, and that’s more than I can say for other, far more ambitious endeavors. Shelton and her co-writer Mike O’Brien earn my thanks.
My daughter Jessie and I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Maron and Lynn Shelton for our Maltin On Movies podcast live on stage at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Click HERE to listen.