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THE BETA TEST: 3 STARS. “lampoons the Hollywood A-type architype.”

Equal parts discomforting and funny, “The Beta Test,” a new dark comedy now on VOD, is a film industry satire that is unafraid to make the viewer squirm.

Remember Ari Gold, the motor-mouthed Hollywood agent played by Jeremy Piven on “Entourage”? On a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the most abrasive, he was a 9.

“The Beta Test’s” Jordan Hines (Jim Cummings) is an 11. He’s a somewhat successful agent who makes money repacking already existing intellectual properties like “Caddyshack”—but this time with dogs. He’s a walking deal memo with an attitude, a temper and a secret.

Weeks before his marriage to Caroline (Virginia Newcomb), Jordan receives a mysterious note. Designed to look like a wedding invitation, it invites him to a no-strings attached, anonymous sexual encounter that will cater to his kinks. Curious, he accepts, and spends an afternoon, blindfolded, indulging in his wildest fantasies.

Satisfied, he craves another tryst. But there is a complication. Others who accepted the same invitation are ending up dead at the hands of their significant others. Perplexed and afraid, Jordan launches an investigation into the source of the invite as his personal and professional lives fall apart.

“The Beta Test” isn’t really about the mystery. The identity of the invite senders isn’t the point of this movie, it’s the McGuffin that keeps the action moving along. Instead, this is a piercing look at the emptiness of the film business and the folks who decide what entertainment we get to see.

As Jordan, Cummings is one step away from being feral. He’s the twitchy, uncomfortable center of the story. Unable to be truly happy, he’s self-aware enough to recognize his unhappiness, but his worldview won’t allow him to admit that to anyone, particularly his clients. He’s all surface; the kind of guy who buys a painting he can’t afford to impress people. That soullessness lies at the heart of “The Beta Test.” It’s a brutal attack on the Jordan Hineses of the world that lampoons the Hollywood A-type architype in a way that makes “Entourage’s” portrayal of Ari Gold seem tame by comparison.

“The Beta Test’s” study of toxic masculinity and fragility isn’t without its bumps, but the overarching message is surprisingly simple and gentle for such a ferocious movie. “Everybody just wants to be famous, but for what? Be happy with what you’ve got.”


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