“The Beta Test” Review: Amazing Satire From Jim Cummings’ Hollywood Business

This woman looks nervous. She called 911 to report a domestic accident, but it hasn’t happened yet. Curious. Then he tells his 10-year-old partner that it’s all over. Probably because he’s a demanding idiot who belittles him even though we’re not sure.

His response was to stab him, strangle him, and throw him off the balcony. Very curious. Then we met Jordan (Cummings). He and his best friend PJ (PJ McCabe) work for a central Hollywood talent agency.

Jordan quits drinking a few years ago and is engaged to Caroline (Virginia Newcomb).

The wedding is in six weeks. One day he receives an invitation in the mail for an “unconditional s*xual encounter” in a hotel room. Everything is purple with elaborate scripts – very sophisticated. She looked at him, looked at him again.

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She looks at him again and threw him in the trash before Caroline saw him. But it wasn’t long before he searched the trash can. He checked his preferences for her, and what came to my mind said, “sit on his face”.

At this point, it’s not hard to see that Jordan is a lunatic. Perhaps in the midst of a psychological crisis. His conversational style involves frequent interruptions by others and non-stop chatter about it in mixed sentences. He was very open about his ulcer condition. It vaporizes SUPER HARD. He treats his subordinates like trash in the office.

We get a cool montage of the Jordan at work meeting various clients. And telling them how “excited” he really is to actually work with them. “Disgusting!” “Exciting!” “Disgusting!” he cried over and over. He greeted a potential Chinese client and said, “Hell, are you hell?”

Is the agency successful? Who knows. Smoke and mirrors have nothing to do with it. Jordan is a 3 dollar bill. This fake is so disgusting that Holden Caulfield would suffer a fatal aneurysm in an instant. Caroline had to run away. Run, Caroline, run!

Well, Jordan walked into the hotel room at the appointed time. Put on the blindfold as requested, came in and sat on his face. From a beautiful woman, also blindfolded. As the wedding approaches and Caroline somehow suffers a bald neurotic injury. She is secretly obsessed with who, how and why she encounters this eroticism:

Regarding the murder he heard about on the news:

For example, the woman who was thrown from the balcony. He disguised himself as a private detective, bullied people, started drinking again, hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii vaaaaaaaaaaaae, and played enough Hollywood baseball games to be voted his first choice in the Dickhead Hall of Fame.

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Conflict: I’m often drawn to Cumming’s performances, which are fresh – and exciting! Very exciting! – Track. I’m also disgusted by the movie business jokes that pile up like a falling rain canopy; I caught a few of them, missed as many as I could, and laughed at some. But they all found it condescending.

The Beta Test is a lot like Hollywood artists who are unsure if they want to participate in a fake stag game that they will count among the successful elite in the industry. There are jokes from the Marvel movies, references to “Harvey” (as in “Weinstein”) as if it were a cautionary tale, and lots of subtle references from #MeToo, for example, this faded short dialogue: “Adultery has gone down. Drastic.”

The thriller component of the film seems designed to stimulate more questions than answers. Cummings and co-author McCabe added a partially intentional comment about the destructive nature of corporate data mining via social media and puzzle-solving with little more than an acre and shrugged.

Even more interesting is his portrayal of the obsession, paranoia, and fear that shatters layers of Jordan’s character, a chaotic bundle of energy seeking liberation, with Cummings playing him as a crippled machine breaking its feathers.

No wonder he’s so focused on one night of incredibly satisfying, anonymous s*x – every moment of his life, he’s trying to be someone else. So is Hollywood attracting scammers, or are real people being fakes from Hollywood? Tough call.

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The beta test is not condensed as a fully realized thriller or satire:

And it can turn off an audience that isn’t immersed in the intricacies of the entertainment business. But this piece exudes a whimsical charm, and Cummings throws us off balance with his looks and many provocative ideas.