The Beta Test (2021) – Film Review
Directors: Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe
Cast: Jim Cummings, PJ McCabe, Virginia Newcomb
By @Roger Crow
A random atrocity takes place in an apartment block. The hook being that the victim alerts the authorities before she becomes the victim.
So far, so Minority Report. But that’s just a hint of the bigger picture.
Shortly before his wedding, ruthless talent agent, Jordan (Jim Cummings) receives a mysterious envelope offering no-strings-attached sex with a stranger in a hotel room. Initially amused, then intrigued, he becomes obsessed by the idea of a secret erotic adventure and impulsively accepts.
The Beta Test is described as “a scathing satire of outdated Hollywood sleaze, rampant consumerism and an adulterous horror story for a hyper-connected digital generation”.
And for the most part it’s pretty compelling. Okay, those opening titles might look nice and in keeping with the fancy font on the mysterious invites, but the film makers clearly didn’t care if you knew who worked on the movie or not. They’re on screen for a second, you manage to decipher a name, then they’re gone.
Not that it matters, because what follows is one of those compelling tales which looks like Eyes Wide Shut written and directed by someone who’s had too many energy drinks. If that movie was set in Hollywood.
However, it’s also firmly got its finger on the button, especially when addressing the subject of data mining. You know those friendly questions you get on social media asking about your favourite pet, memories of your dad and the like? Behind that facade is an industry gleaning valuable information to either crack your passwords or sell you stuff. Or both.
Looming large over the movie is the formidable shadow of a shamed film producer. Yes, that one. He’s even mentioned at one point, and though only by Christian name. The fallout from that will be seen in movies like this for some time to come, obviously. And while the story might be compelling, it’s Jim Cummings who holds the whole thing together. His character is obnoxious, lying, cheating, ranting, and yet utterly fascinating.
It’s stylishly shot and edited with some great performances. While the finale feels like a bit of a let down and there are more of those unintelligible closing titles, for the most part this should get a big thumbs up from those who love deconstructing Hollywood and its most unsavoury characters.