Jim Cummings proved to be a brilliant performer and an exciting filmmaker with Thunder Road, a film he not only directed but also wrote and starred in. As that film’s leading character, he commanded the screen with run-on breakdowns that ranged from hysterical highs to desperate lows. The unforgettable results balanced heavy emotions and dark comedy.
He channels that same hysteria in his latest film The Beta Test. Co-directed and co-written by co-star PJ McCabe, The Beta Test features Cummings playing Jordan, a high-profile agent who loses himself in a random mail-in proposition to have an anonymous one-night-stand right before he ties the knot. After he takes advantage of the opportunity, he drives himself mad trying to take control over the consequences of this very unpredictable situation; leading Jordan down a mystery of where the invite originated from, who sent it, and who he had sex with.
Jim Cummings is irresistibly unhinged in The Beta Test with a magnetic performance that resembles Jim Carrey auditioning for the role of American Psycho’s Patrick Batemen. With each monologue paired with Jordan’s aggravated mannerisms, Cummings expertly blends together absurdity, danger, and hilarity.
However, The Beta Test isn’t comparable to Cummings’ excellent performance. Though the writing features well-crafted dialogue, the mystery behind the story complicates itself in an effort to be relevant in a digital age of data mining. The story is so distracted – bending and heaving itself towards relatable topics – that McCabe and Cummings forget to build suspense. Jordan follows through with each investigative step, but there isn’t a difference between “his world” and the underground he discovers. Because of that, The Beta Test functions on a singular and shallow level; separating itself from better examples like Under the Silver Lake or this year’s Pig.
The Beta Test is, unfortunately, underwhelming despite irregular strong spurts from its cast. Ironically, the faults could’ve been corrected if the filmmakers had tested their concept a few more times.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie