Indie fear writer Jim Cummings“Work always trembles nervously at the buzz or the uneasy apprehension. His brilliant debut “Thunder road“Pulsed with the gruesome tension of a grieving divorced cop on the verge of a nervous breakdown and follow-up care”The Wolf of Snow Cave“Layered crime genre elements and the idea of the” poisonous male beast inside “in addition to his characteristic nervous excitement. Cummings-insecure men are generally uncomfortable with their own skin, self-hating scammers are afraid of being exposed as less competent because they know deep down that they are. And in “The beta test”- his latest work, co-directed and co-written PJ McCabe—Cummings’ signature storm of flammable nerve energy comes to Hollywood and is transformed from a dark comedy into a horror based on the terror of being outed as a fraud and the fear of cancellation.
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However, this is just one level that can be unpacked in the clever and multi-layered film, which is also about deception, dishonesty, the panic itself possibility Consequences, the uncertainty of life in a world of social upheaval, internet shame and the blood-sucking nature of the leeches in Tinseltown. For one, “The Beta Test” is clearly inspired by the 2019/2020 litigation between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Hollywood talent agencies. To fully explain this conflict, you need to get in the weeds until you reduce it to the essentials: creators vs. middlemen who charge a percentage of creatives fees for putting their deals together. One of the villains here is the insidious practice of “boxing up” – extra fees, essentially an extra tax authority magically invented to pat itself on the back financially to get a project with all the talent involved comfortably under their agency umbrella wrap in a loop (writer / producer and work advocate) David Simon called the unethical practice “first prima facie evidence of decades of blackmail. It’s so damn ugly. “Here’s a good explanation for that, and all the way the agencies have created conflicts of interest, and even possibly violated antitrust laws).
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So yeah, agencies and talent agents are essentially the bad guys in “The Beta Test,” and this is where Cummings and McCabe begin their story: as two superficial agents trying to sneak around Hollywood, opening up the movie, and bragging about the seedy kind and the way they signed a client (“Is that legal?” asks one of the friends? The answer is nobody cares).
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Cummings plays Jordan, McCabe is PJ and Virginia Newcomb is Caroline, Jordan’s long-suffering fiancée who has to endure his self-centered but fragile ego, fake smile, wrong personality, and the 24-hour logorrhea of bullshit that he vomits all day. The action begins in earnest when Jordan receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter. The imaginative thrill of temptation pulsates through the self-centered agent and eventually he gives in to overwhelmingly passionate sex in a hotel room, blindfolded and unable to see his partner. When it’s over there is no regret, just intrigue about who his mysterious surrogate was (she was blindfolded too). But as “The Beta Test” announces in its prologue with the gruesome and ominous murder of a young L.A. woman, the tectonic plates of the world are shifting. Jordan confides in PJ and panic mounts – is a rival agency trying to start it? Was it all an elaborate act? The paranoid rabbit hole of being caught soon finds Jordan trapped in a sinister web of duplicity, fraud, threatening consequences and the dangers of exploiting sensitive digital data.
And while it’s never explicitly mentioned, the backdrop to “The Beta Test” is today’s discouraging climate for those who need to feel guilty – the way culture imploded and how Hollywood in the post-era #MeToo was -Settlement has collapsed. While the film was likely written before “culture breakaway” became today’s overused buzzword, the film is permeated with that same sense of fear and anxiety that the corners of Fox News, conservative media, and those incredibly concerned about how the culture is terrorized has seismic shifts have caused such social volatility and disruption and opened them up to hitherto inviolable consequences. The feeling the characters feel is unmistakable – the hurt feeling and resentment of being watched like a hawk, of making a mistake, of being caught that white men fear their uncontrolled behavior, can no longer be unchecked. It’s the idea that certain men suddenly feel choked in the world, and the film arose out of the oppression white men began to feel, as the privilege they were used to having the slightest trace of equality for others began to give way. And it’s pretty awesome how Cummings and McCabe use this cultural fear to criticize the fact that agencies are inherently irrelevant to the creative process and how they tried to invite themselves to that table (“We don’t need agents like that “Be a producer,” says a Chinese super producer whom the guys are trying to represent, contemptuously).
If the texture of the culture war puts you off, you might be telling yourself and you will miss the point; it adds layers of comical depth over uncertainty, fear, and shame. But that’s just an established launchpad concept for the film, baked into the nervous, neurotic main character (and if anything, the goal is to grow Hollywood). First and foremost, “The Beta Test” is wriggling amusing, a hilarious twist on the flatness of the movie industry and the paranoia and suspicion that haunt the culprits. “There are no problems, only opportunities,” says one Sleazebag agent to the other. “The WGA laughs at your starving children; it’s sick! “says another, protests in a team meeting and calls on colleagues not to give in in the WGA fight.
“The Beta Test” seems to get lost in its maze-like, overly complex final act as everything behind the subject of the mysterious letter is revealed – something the Agents twist and turn with hilarious effects – but overall, Cummings and McCabe’s are film hits a raw nerve with sharp, funny, awkwardly prickly provocation. Fights rage in “The Beta Test”. Cultural in the background, business conflicts in the middle, and personal conflicts of fear and how to move forward in a so-called environment of uncertainty. Ultimately, “The Beta Test” can show your true colors in the current cultural landscape; what are you personally afraid of? You didn’t do anything wrong, did you? [B+]
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