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Marc Maron Is A Revelation In Lynn Shelton’s “Sword Of Trust”

For years, filmmaker Lynn Shelton has been making low key independent slice of life movies. In looking at largely ordinary, if quirky, characters throughout her career, Shelton has made quite a niche for herself. This week, her latest outing opens in Sword of Trust, another small scale character based comedy. What makes this one of her best ones yet isn’t just the light and playful tone, but the central turn by actor, comedian, and podcaster Marc Maron. Bringing his own life and personality to the role, Maron mixes with Shelton to create a memorable character who anchors the picture and helps make it a cut above.

The film is a low key comedy, with some dramedy overtones, centered around a potential sale of a sword. At the start, we hang around the pawn shop owned by Mel (Maron), a curmudgeon who has hints of a soft side. He hangs around his store, mostly dealing with customers and being annoyed by his dim-witted and conspiracy theory believing employee Nathaniel (Jon Bass), who’s more of a sidekick than anything else. Then, Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and Mary (Michaela Watkins) walk into the store. The former has inherited a sword from her deceased grandfather, which he believed was evidence that the South actually won the Civil War. The three don’t get along at first, but once Mel realizes that there’s an underground market for relics like this that pay top dollar, he changes his tune. Soon, an unlikely partnership has formed, plunging them into a world they are hardly familiar with. If it sounds heavy, trust that it’s largely played for witty humor. Shelton directs and co-writes here with Michael Patrick O’Brien. Supporting players include Dan Bakkedahl and Toby Huss, along with Shelton herself. Cinematography is by Jason Oldak, while the score comes from Keegan DeWitt.

Marc Maron is absolutely on his A game here, infusing his character with an edge that’s pure personality. He’s hypnotically watchable. Not only is he hilarious, the emotion of his character, the tragic background, and the melancholy that surrounds him, it’s all handled wonderfully. Maron and Shelton understand what makes Mel tick, and in crafting the man, they’ve created one of her most interesting to date. Whenever he’s on screen, even if he’s not doing a whole lot, he has your rapt attention. Maron has impressed on GLOW for years now, with this work continuing that trend of showcasing him as an underrated talent not just on the comedy side, but the more dramatic as well.

Lynn Shelton is firing on all cylinders with Sword of Trust. The narrative and tone are lighter than some of her other works, but very much still the sort of thing she’s become a master at. Besides Maron, the interactions of Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins are consistently delightful, as are basically every single side character who shows up. If there’s one shortcoming here, it’s the dopey nature of Jon Bass’s character, who doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. Bass is solid, it’s just the role. When all four are engaged in conversation though, Shelton’s dialogue based talents really do come to the forefront.

This weekend, audiences who have enjoyed Shelton’s previous films, enjoy mumblecore cinema, or just dig on Maron, should find a real nice option in Sword of Trust. The movie is a breezy effort that gets into some potentially thorny topics with a perfectly light touch. Though it’ll never be a blockbuster, it’s the sort of small scale flick that the summer desperately needs, not just as a palate cleanser, but to provide cinephiles with a well rounded meal. It’s an indie work that manages to make you smile, while also staying with you after the credits roll, especially in regards to the final scene. Give it a shot and you’ll see why…

Be sure to check out Sword of Trust, in theaters starting on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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