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Neurotic losers desperate to be heroic dominate the work of prolific director and DIY advocate Jim Cummings. His new work, Beta Test, co-authored with P.J. McCabe and whose director was first co-written with P.J. McCabe, is alarming and amusing in his contemplation of staying true to the digital age. his oblique emotions in circumstances inaccessible to him.
Situated somewhere between David Lynch and Spike Jonze, not as quirky as the first and not as fantastic as the last, this comedy thriller, edgy and brilliantly awkward, plays Cummings as Jordan, a Hollywood megalomaniac agent. who is going to get married. His work is the epitome of forced politeness and fake customer acquisition enthusiasm. Lying is his main virtue. But the preservation of the pristine public image in a highly professional environment, still thriving on toxicity, brought it to the brink of self-destruction.
The arrival of the mysterious purple envelope, which might be a showy wedding invitation, undermines his fabricated normality with an obscene proposal: anonymous sexual encounter tailored to his exact preferences. Such a seductive respite from the routine, the ability to behave badly, seemingly without consequences, reveals deeper cracks in his psyche, sending him on an obsessive search for answers.
Cummings and McCabe (who plays the equally unprincipled collaborator Jordan P.J.) create a heightened reality, only a few steps more frustrated than the one we’re already in, where the way the Internet turns people’s repressed desires into illegal profits into weapons leads to to tangible destruction of relationships. Secrecy is a very valuable currency in the information age, even more so if failure leads to extreme violence, as in this recognizable fiction. There is no room for forgiveness.
The unsettling ambiance, enlivened by the pathologically optimistic music of Jeffrey Campbell Binner and Ben Lovett, contrasts with the sun-drenched sleekness of corporate buildings and trendy restaurants in Los Angeles, the epicenter of the entertainment industry often referred to as the cesspool of artificiality. Horrific humor, covered in jagged comments about destructive power, permeates Jordan’s quest for a world that predates online responsibility.
The “beta test” relies on Cummings’ magnetically abnormal rotation. A wonderful actor who plays people unraveling, as shown in his breakout Thunder Road and last year’s Snow Hollow Wolf, he swims in familiar waters, but does so with an extraordinarily expressive face painted with restless, charming and repulsive. all with one gesture. He has mastered the art of losing his cool in front of the camera, first making him laugh at his over-interpretation of pain before admitting its honest truth. Of course, it helps that he writes the dialogue that his character uses as a verbal arsenal of intriguing awkwardness.
Jordan’s frantic personality, incapable of making one honest statement, matches the film’s fast-paced visual rhythm. Cummings, an excellent multi-hyphen person who also serves as an editor, inserts layers of detail into scenes as the tension builds with each discovery. His investigation provides an explanation, but of a dubious nature. The plan itself and who set it in motion is not as interesting as the way it lifts the curtain over human weakness. This hall of mirrors, which we used to perceive as “what is,” the roles imposed by society that we must fulfill, makes us more and more strive for something that seems real – whatever that really means.
Duration: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Plays: Kicks off November 5, Alamo Drafthouse, Downtown Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Noho 7, North Hollywood