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Grimmfest 2021 Film Feature - The Beta Test

Directed by: Jim Cummings, PJ McCabe

Written by: Jim Cummings, PJ McCabe

Starring: Jim Cummings, Virginia Newcomb, PJ McCabe, Jacqueline Doke

 


 

Synopsis: A Hollywood agent, engaged to be married in a few weeks, receives a mysterious letter inviting him for an anonymous sexual encounter and thus becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.


Grimmfest say: Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe's outrageous black comedy takes the popular 80s thriller trope of the successful man who torpedoes his comfortable life with an ill-advised sexual liaison, and spins it into a savage satire of preening toxic masculinity and the hollowness of Hollywood success. Stylish and quietly surreal, the dialogue dripping with venom and outrageous, cruel wit, the characters all beautifully observed, it plays like some breakneck, blackhearted farcical fusion of AMERICAN PSYCHO and ENTOURAGE, and features an astonishing lead turn from Cummings, who actually has us rooting for his swaggering, boorish entitled jerk of an antihero, hysterically trying to hold on to his shallow sense of self-worth amid the escalating chaos he suddenly finds himself caught up in. Laugh-out-loud hilarious, and with real emotional depth, this is sure to prove a real audience favourite.


What I'm expecting: If you're familiar with Jim Cumming's earlier films (Thunder Road and The Wolf of Snow Hollow), you'll likely have a good idea of what to expect from The Beta Test, at least in regards to Cumming's unique brand of humour. What concerns me here is that, while perceptive and well made, Cumming's films can be a little tonally messy: it took me a long time to warm to The Wolf of Snow Hollow (although I'm now incredibly fond of it, and it was one of the few films of recent years to genuinely shock me). My next concern is that Grimmfest's description of The Beta Test as "a savage satire of [...] toxic masculinity" seems to be in direct conflict with the description of Cumming's character as a rootable "boorish entitled jerk of an antihero". It will be quite the balancing act, but Cumming's work is proving incredibly popular with audiences at the minute, he's a talented writer and director, and I count myself as a big fan. His ability to play remarkably flawed but likeable characters is irrefutable, and the humour he brings to a film is sharp and biting. If he and co-writer/co-director PJ McCabe can pull this off (and if anyone can, they can), I can see this being a Grimmfest favourite. The Beta Test has me VERY excited!

 

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