The Beta Test is both a commentary on the artificiality of the modern world and the difficulty of making genuine human connections.
Jordan (writer-director-actor Jim Cummings)1 is a slick, smarmy Hollywood agent, preparing to get married to his fiancée Caroline (Virginia Newcomb).
It’s during the wedding prep that Jim receives a formal invitation to “an anonymous no-strings-attached sexual encounter with an admirer”.2 Despite his initial reservations, Jordan accepts the invitation.
Though superficially composed, during Jordan’s interactions with friends and colleagues, like best friend PJ (fellow triple-hyphenate PJ McCabe), we begin to see through his veneer. Jim’s smile is slightly too manic, his jaw clenched, his eyes too wide.
He’s a man who’s intensely “interested” in everything, particularly where Chinese investment is involved, but has no discernible hobbies, apart from working out. A seethingly insecure individual on an increasingly desperate quest for authenticity, Jim is like Patrick Bateman with a vape pen substituting for homicidal tendencies.
That said, there does seem to be an endemic of violence involving the others who have received those purple envelopes, which are Jim’s only clue to uncovering what it is he’s caught up in.
One part Hollywood satire,3 one part techno-thriller,4 The Beta Test is at it’s best as a blackly comic character and societal study. When Jim has his whole existence dismissed by a would-be investor, all he can do is smile and thank them – “Love the honest, love that”.
There’s a not-so veiled reference to “Harvey” and the end of consequence-free abuse5, and a suggestion that men like Jim cannot be left to their own devices.
Kenneth Wales’ cinematography is a cool but vibrant, Jeffrey Campbell Binner’s classical score lending an ironic touch of class and a certain Eyes Wide Shut kinkiness.
The Beta Test is, no pun intended, a class affair.
The Beta Test is now available to rent and buy
- No relationship of the beloved Winnie the Pooh voice actor.
- Further options include preferred role (Top-Bottom-Sub-Dom-etc.), other criteria graded on 1-5 scale, and, most thoughtfully, a blank space for you t fill in your preferred musical accompaniment
- The agency’s main tactic seems to be attacking the WGA.
- There’s a plot thread about data mining that, while no longer quite as ripped-from-the-headlines, still holds some resonance.
- Though Jim does toxically tear into his PA when he’s feeling insecure: “How are you going to be better tomorrow?”.