EIFF Review: The Beta Test

Jordan and Caroline

Breaking into the film industry is far from easy. Independent filmmakers can spend years and years trying to get their big break. Often making a number of shorts in the hope that they’ll impress enough to secure funding. Take Jim Cummings, for example. Despite releasing his first debut feature back in 2010 it took eight more years (and seven shorts) before the next, his breakout Thunder Road. Which he also wrote, starred in, edited and scored. The Wolf of Snow Hollow followed a couple of years later and now he’s teamed up with PJ McCabe to make The Beta Test.

Jordan (Cummings) is a ruthless and successful talent agent in Hollywood. As his wedding to partner Caroline (Virginia Newcomb) approaches, it seems like he has the whole world at his feet. Then one day he receives a mysterious purple enveloping containing an invitation to have no-strings sex with a stranger in a hotel room. At first, Jordan treats it as a joke. However, curiosity soon builds into an obsession and he just has to see if it’s real.

The Beta Test is a scathing satire which takes a bloody knife to the bullshit of Hollywood representation using a combination of darkly comedic writing and a beautifully overblown lead performance. It’s impressive stuff from co-writers, directors and stars Cummings and McCabe. While not every arrow hits its target, most do. Driven by self-doubt and fear of commitment, Jordan piles one lie on top of another until they threaten to drown him. The Beta Test is a sociopathic rollercoaster ride.

The Beta Test screens at Edinburgh International Film Festival and in cinemas this October.

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