“The Beta test”: a world mediated by technical relations | From actor and director Jim Cummings, on HBO Max

Beta test 7 points

The Beta Test; USA/UK, 2021.

Direction and script: Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe.

Duration: 93 minutes.

Performers: Jim Cummings, Virginia Newcomb, PJ McCabe, Kevin Changaris, Olivia Grace Applegate, and Jessie Barr.

Premiere on HBO Max

Is there a place for ferocity and savagery in contemporary comedy when political correctness is an unwritten norm of the genre and the specter of cancellation hovers over every attempt to cross the line? Is it possible, in times of easily digestible characters, to bet on a protagonist at times hateful, at others revulsive, always arrogant and on the edge of explosion? Since he made his feature film making debut in 2018 with Thunder Road, actor, director and screenwriter Jim Cummings He is shouting to the four winds that of course, that there is a place and it is possible, that it is only a matter of cheering up and not giving too much balls to what they will say. With these guidelines he conceived, together with the co-director, co-writer and co-star PJ McCabe, the beta testa comedy with hints of a technocratic thriller who begins as a Brian de Palma, flirts with Stanley Kubrick and travels to the depths of the splintered mind of a Hollywood agent who looms like an updated version of Patrick Bateman from american psycho. Of course, no trying to put kittens in ATMs or kill homeless people

If Bateman did what he did to believe he was unbeatable, Jordan’s thing is part of a desperate attempt to break a stressful monotony. But the start indicates other narrative paths that, as the footage progresses, will be revealed as secondary. With the mechanical coldness of a film by the director of The Untouchables, the initial sequence has a Swedish girl who, upset, calls the police for a family brawl at her home, the same one that, she supposes, will come about when she confesses to infidelity to her partner. What she did not imagine was that this man, instead of getting angry or insulting her, would stab her and throw her off the balcony. That girl had received a mysterious purple envelope with an invitation to a sexual encounter “without inhibitions” with a stranger in a luxurious hotel room. The same envelope that Jordan received a month before his marriage to Caroline (Virginia Newcomb), an event that interests him less than the prices on the Tokyo stock market.

His gaze fixed on every pretty woman who crosses his path is the first indication that, perhaps, Jordan has an inner monster that hardly calms down in the face of commitment. But that monstrosity is not exclusive. Cummings describes the audiovisual industry as a beast that feeds on egos and deceit, seeking attention at all costs. That corporate monstrosity allows the beta test embrace comedy –uncomfortable, very black– while painting a world mediated by technical relations. The problem is that the future of this industry does not seem to include agents, triggering an absolute tedium in the face of the mask that their trade imposes. Thus, he went to the hotel for an unforgettable sexual evening with a young lady he did not even see, since there was a mask on the doorknob that covered his eyes until the end of the encounter, a sequence reminiscent of Eyes wide Shut.

The encounter is the beginning of a double-entry obsession (who was the girl and what mind was behind the generation of that encounter) that grows as her life comes into play. a spiral where the real and the imagined become an inseparable whole, pushing him, for example, to start a personal “investigation”. That for that he pretends to be a policeman is not by chance, while his Jim Arnaud worked in the much kinder Thunder Road. Authority and responsibility like the waves that eat away at the foundations of sanity. Cummings expresses his collapse with a range of gestures worthy of a very dark and vitriolic Jim Carrey, cruel and cynical, which gives the film an outrageous air, putting into the abyss of a model of life that creaks at his feet.

“The Beta test”: a world mediated by technical relations | From actor and director Jim Cummings, on HBO Max