Podcast impresario Marc Maron leads a small but effective cast of oddballs in the minimal and charming Sword of Trust from Laggies director Lynn Shelton, a weirdly fun comedy with subtle dramatic elements and no shortage of
When Cynthia (Jillian Bell, Workaholics) returns to Alabama with her fiancé Mary (SNL's Michaela Watkins) to claim an inheritance following her grandfather's death, instead of a house, she is presented with a Civil War-era Union Army sword and documentation that claims the relic was pivotal in the "real" story of the day—that the South actually won the war.
Maron (of Netflix hit Glow), meanwhile, a guileful and perhaps heartless pawn shop owner named Mel, becomes embroiled when the women visit his store looking to cash in. The history of the sword seems absurd, of course, but when Mel's assistant Nathaniel (Jon Bass, Baywatch) uncovers a clandestine Southern group of conspiracy theorists willing to pay big bucks for items like the sword—items that reveal their preferred version of the truth—Mel sees a big payday and joins forces with Cynthia and Mary, thrusting the quartet into a bizarre yet humorous series of events.
Sword impresses particularly in its simplicity, though Maron carries the day. Much of the dialogue was improvised within the bare bones of a story, and while Bell and Watkins' chemistry is an onscreen plus, Maron's natural wit and lovable curmudgeon affect steal the show. Bass is funny enough at times with a certain wide-eyed innocence, but he simply can't keep up with the more seasoned comedy vets in the cast; he's always better when responding to someone else's antics, though his own penchant for conspiracies shines a light on how most of us believe in at least one.
Elsewhere, Veep's Dan Bakkedahl as the slightly frightening leader of the down-home truthers is hysterically chilling, and Toby Huss (Pete and Pete) spurs laughs as an imposing though ridiculous believer. Stripped-down is the name of the game here, and lightning-fast performance exchange wins the day. Anytime Maron and Watkins are together, Sword of Truth borders on the sublime, which almost makes up for a bit of meandering and an admittedly slow pace.
+Maron shines; quite funny at times
-Slow pacing; Bass can't keep up
Sword of Trust
Directed by Shelton
With Maron, Watkins, Bell and Bass
Center for Contemporary Arts, R, 88 min.