New independent film ‘The Beta Test’ excels in brilliant, meticulous social satire | Culture & Leisure


It takes considerable comedic gifts to make a loathsome, pathetic character so mesmerizing that you can resist, even get sick pleasure, watching him dig himself in a hole for over 90 minutes. Jim Cummings, star, editor, producer, co-writer and co-director of “The Beta Test,” has those gifts.

Jordan (Jim Cummings), a ruthless and manipulative Hollywood agent, is trapped in a conspiracy in the months leading up to his marriage after receiving a mysterious letter for an anonymous, no-obligation sex encounter. His troubles begin when he accepts the engraved invitation to cheat and is immersed in a sinister world of lies, infidelity and digital data.

Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe’s “The Beta Test” is a nervous breakdown and frenzied film industry satire filled to the brim with Hollywood murders, nationwide sex conspiracy and jack of all trades, from Harvey Weinstein to the Writers Guild of America’s fight against packaging costs along the way. While the film may feel chaotic as it unfolds at a breakneck pace, it’s both necessary with the number of themes Cummings wants to break down in 90 minutes and suited to its absolutely manic protagonist. He creates a funny, tense, and slightly confusing world in his both realistic and satirical portrayal of Hollywood. The plot is convoluted and it’s easy to get lost, but rewards viewers for their patience and attention to detail.

I think a lot of the reason I love Jim Cummings movies so much is his ability to translate a really specific, chaotic internal feeling to the screen in a perfectly unsettling way. With “Thunder Road” it was uncertainty and depression, with “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” it was rage and masculinity, and with “The Beta Test” (perhaps his best film yet. day) is the facade and paranoia.

While “The Beta Test” is a collaborative effort between Cummings and his friend and colleague, PJ McCabe, it is undoubtedly a Cummings film with a cynical basis. With only three narrative feature films under his belt, he’s created a distinct style that I really like. The script is filled to the brim with its witty and intelligent dialogue that keeps you on your feet. Jordan’s frenzied character, incapable of an honest statement, matches the rapid visual pace of the film. It helps, of course, that Cummings writes down the very dialogue his character deploys as a verbal arsenal of intriguing awkwardness. You just can’t take your eyes off it.

It’s only a matter of time before Jim Cummings inevitably explodes and is recognized by the masses and given a big budget for fun. What he is able to accomplish on such microscopic budgets is astounding. You will never be able to guess that this movie was made for a paltry $ 250,000. Everything from sets and costumes, to frantic editing and superb cinematography, is so meticulously well designed and executed, all thanks to the brilliant vision of Cummings who clearly mastered the art of filmmaking. He has what it takes to be one of the greatest and I desperately want to see him earn the mainstream recognition and praise he so clearly deserves.

“The Beta Test” is a sharp and scandalous social commentary that is absolutely scathing in its critique of Hollywood, the Internet, and toxic masculinity. Jim Cummings’ style is already so distinct, but he continues to find hilarious new ways to surprise us. Captivating, fast-paced and extremely entertaining to watch, “The Beta Test” is the funniest movie of the year and one of my personal favorites. An enthusiastic 8/10.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.


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