By Laurie Coker
Almost everyone would love to find a family treasure in the attic, a trinket, document or collection worth a pretty penny. Another possibility, albeit rare, are the hopes of unearthing some relic that upturns history as we know it. Such is the case, or so it seems with a Civil War sword in Sword of Trust, an odd and quirky comedy from IFC, directed and co-written by Lynn Shelton.
Girlfriends Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and Mary (Michaela Watkins) find themselves in possession of an antique sword (instead of Cynthia’s grandfather’s house as they expected) with an intriguing, and hopefully valuable story. They take their artifact to Mel, a pawnshop owner in Mobile, Alabama with a shrewd eye for a bargain and a wry sense of humor, but he cannot get one past the girls and their amazing claim. Mel discovers a buyer for the sword and entices Cynthia and Mary back into his store on a promise of a better offer. After an exchange of ironic and clever banter, Mel, Cynthia, Mary, and Nathaniel (Jon Bass) Mel’s lazy shop clerk are off on a journey where they come face to face with Southern racism.
Shelton and co-writer Mike O’Brien let their actors have fun in a droll showing of silliness and social commentary. Cynthia and Mary’s story is as unfounded as it is outlandish, but then so is the film’s storyline. The claim? – the South won the war. The lesbians and the pawnshop boys set out to meet the buyer – an extremist right-wing outfit committed to advancing that alternate view of history. Maron, Bell, and Watkins are brilliant! They carry the farce full force with dry wit and classic improv comedy. Theirs is not the yuck-yuck, side-splitting comedy, but rather more of a slow-roll of subtle ironic humor and understated unrest.
Shelton’s is notably a low budget film; however, her cast elevates its value and her efforts. She lets her actors react naturally to each other. Some more ludicrous scenes warrant actor restraint and probably a few retakes. I am placing a B- in my grade book. The pacing drags at times and realism is tightly stretched.