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With: Marc Maron, Jon Bass, Michaela Watkins, Jillian Bell, Toby Huss, Dan Bakkedahl, Lynn Shelton, Timothy Paul, Whitmer Thomas, Al Elliott
Written by: Lynn Shelton, Michael Patrick O'Brien
Directed by: Lynn Shelton
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Running Time: 88
Date: 07/19/2019

Sword of Trust (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Blade in America

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed and co-written by Lynn Shelton (Humpday, Touchy Feely), Sword of Trust is a simple, four-person piece with a simple, intriguing pitch line; it's her best work since Your Sister's Sister. The four characters in the new movie embark upon a journey to try to sell an antique Civil War-era sword; it was left to Cynthia (Jillian Bell) by her grandfather, with the claim that it offers proof that the South won the war. Cynthia and her partner Mary (Michaela Watkins) take the sword to an Alabama pawn shop run by Mel (Marc Maron) and an ineffectual assistant, Nathaniel (Jon Bass). The women try to spin a believable story, but Mel doesn't buy it. Meanwhile, on the web, Nathaniel finds a group of hardcore southerners who actually believe that they won the Civil War and are willing to pay big money for "proof." So the quartet travels into scary redneck territory to meet with the head guy and complete the deal.

The movie is largely dialogue-based, but everything that's spoken sounds fresh and funny and smart. These folks are not easily fooled. Even Nathaniel, who is presented as a doofus, has read up on the theory of the earth being flat, and can make arguments for it. Maron — whom Shelton directed on the TV series GLOW — plays exasperation to comic perfection, and Watkins (whom Shelton directed on the TV series Casual) and Bell have great chemistry and comic banter; they feel like an old couple. The movie turns from entertaining to excellent in its final stretch, after we've totally put our trust in the characters, and as they prepare to face off with the Civil War nuts. They're curious to find out what makes these confederates (and, likely, Trump supporters), tick. In the end, Shelton offers a somewhat cartoonish portrayal, but with a nice surprise twist. Sword of Trust doesn't answer any big questions, but it does feel like it comes from life, and it's as lovable as it is wacky.

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