“The Beta Test”, an omega male in Hollywood

The Beta Test **

by Jim Cummings

American movie, 1 h 31

In 2018, Jim Cummings made a big splash in cinema with his first film, Thunder road, crowned with the grand prize at the Deauville Festival. He played Jimmy, a New Orleans policeman trapped in manly postures and overwhelmed by emotions he had only learned to curb. The film opened with his mother’s funeral and a final freewheeling message of love, between excessive praise, avalanche of tears and no dancing to the song of Bruce Springsteen.

→ READ. “Thunder Road”, to be a grieving John Wayne

It is with another realistic outrageous portrait that Jim Cummings returns in The Beta Test. Agent in Hollywood, Jordan Hines is working to tick all the boxes of success, where landing contracts with important clients and marrying Caroline in six weeks seem to be placed on the same plane. A purple envelope disrupts the established order: it contains an invitation to go to a meeting in a hotel room where Jordan would find a secret admirer, as determined to remain anonymous as to satisfy her desires.

A biting irony

Jim Cummings renews with biting irony the critique of a world of appearances where having comes before being. If Jordan lacks the ambivalence that made Jimmy touching, the director nevertheless manages the feat of captivating the frantic descent into hell of this egotistical and manipulative man. Because after going to the mysterious sexual meeting without discovering the identity of his stranger, the Hollywood agent sinks into paranoia. Who organized this meeting? For what purposes? Jordan even suspects his fiancée.

The supercharged farce is coupled with a rabid thriller announced by an opening scene as unexpected as it is bloody. Jordan, who seems to ignore everything about the #MeToo movement, conducts his investigation with all the nerve, posing as an FBI agent and, pressure cooker perpetually in tension, explodes at every obstacle. A young woman from her agency particularly bears the brunt of her bouts of violence. Jim Cummings does not expand on the trade which would have nevertheless been worth some clarification, but dwells on details he wants revealing of Jordan’s psyche, like his obsession with the whiteness of his teeth and their real state.

More successful than Thunder road, this satire revolves at full speed around a character who is only the fruit of his environment. A prisoner of its diktats, its only freedom is to adhere to them. The enigmatic invitation he receives allows him to imagine finally taking a side step, but it is ultimately a trap, consistent with the world in which he lives, which closes in on him.


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