Sexual mystery wrapped in Hollywood satire

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Jim Cummings gives a gloriously lifted performance in “The Beta Test”, a satirical comedy thriller he also co-wrote and co-directed with actor PJ McCabe. He plays a Hollywood agent who crumbles on the inside and struggles to keep him together on the outside, resulting in scene after scene hilarious meltdowns.

Cummings is a DIY independent film darling who made waves on the independent circuit with his 2018 film “Thunder Road,” which was a wonderful showcase of his vulnerability and sincerity as an actor. He takes those traits and twists them in “The Beta Test”, playing an unkind egotist, but with the same level of commitment that made “Thunder Road” a breakthrough.

Cummings is Jordan Hines, whose validation comes from his work at an LA arts agency. He walks with aplomb and confidence, but he’s a little self-assured, jealous and mean, a climber always looking for the next rung and worried that he will be taken away from him.

He’s engaged in less than two months (Virginia Newcomb plays her fiance) but that doesn’t stop him from responding to a letter he receives calling for an anonymous sexual encounter with an anonymous admirer. He meets the mysterious woman in a hotel room, they never take off their masks, and after enjoying each other’s company, they both go their separate ways. But he’s torn by, well, not guilt, but questions: who was she? Who sent the letter? And who knows about their date?

Jordan needs answers and he sets out on a quest to find them, weaving his way through pseudo-interrogations he can barely fake. (McCabe plays his pal, who tries to help him, to no avail.) Around him, “The Beta Test” paints a grim picture of Hollywood bluster and confusion in a post-Harvey Weinstein world where the old rules are in the making. to be rewritten and no one is quite sure how to act.

There is another backdrop to murder that is woefully under-explored, but “The Beta Test” hits its mark in Cummings’ performance, which is manic and on the verge of utter hysteria. Cummings is a voice in his own right, and in “The Beta Test” he makes sure that voice is heard.

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“The beta test”

CATEGORY B

Uncategorized: Language, sexuality, nudity, violence, adult situations

Duration: 93 minutes

On demand


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