Saturday, March 16, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Sword of Trust

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Sword of Trust
Directed by Lynn Shelton
Narrative Spotlight

There are many notions and events from throughout history about which people can’t agree upon one universal truth. Lack of documentation or scientific evidence to support a theory may cause it not to be widely accepted, and for differing established points of view to exist that are equally valid. And then there are those things that have in fact been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and nearly everyone accepts them without question. There do exist groups, most often termed conspiracy theorists, that stand by something that directly contradicts what is almost universally believed.

Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and Mary (Michaela Watkins) show up to collect the house that they assume Cynthia’s late grandfather has left them, and are disappointed to learn that it is now owned by the bank, with their only inheritance being a mysterious sword. Upon finding documentation that claims this sword is proof that the South actually won the Civil War, Cynthia and Mary bring it to a pawn shop and try to sell it to Mel (Marc Maron), who rejects it as a hoax until some brief online research indicates that there is a group willing to pay thousands for it. Along with Mel and his hapless employee Nathaniel (Jon Bass), Cynthia and Mary set out to sell this bizarrely-treasured artifact to a shady buyer whose beliefs lie far outside the norm.

This film comes from Lynn Shelton, who has directed a number of films including “Laggies,” “Touchy Feely,” and a personal favorite of this reviewer’s, “Your Sister’s Sister.” This latest effort is an exercise in conversation, following its main characters’ improvised dialogue wherever it takes them, infusing the film with incredible humor as they banter, alternatively spewing nonsense and actually connecting on a real level about the absurdity of what they are doing. The characterizations of its protagonists are entertaining, particularly the lazy Nathaniel, who himself is too prone to propaganda and believes that the earth is flat, and once the true Southerners show up, there’s more than enough material to make them hilariously absurd.

This film provides fantastic showcase for all the actors involved, particularly Maron from “GLOW” as the sarcastic Mel and Watkins from “Casual” as the argumentative, self-assured Mary. This misadventure proves quite funny and engaging, even if it doesn’t manage to be all that sophisticated as it reaches its end. It’s still a fun, mind-boggling ride that does a great job sending up the idea of conspiracy theories that quite literally have been proven to be false.


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