So, there’s this guy. He’s a total–I don’t like to use this word–douchebag. His name is Jordin. Jordin Hines. He’s the protagonist in director Jim Cumming’s black comedy, The Beta Test. He is played by him too.
Jordin’s a Hollywood agent with all the accoutrements of his profession–monochrome suits, Magnanni loafers, exacting haircut–but namely it’s insincerity and smarminess that he’s got down to a T. That and prominent canine teeth.
Just a few short years ago men like Jordin ruled the roost in Hollywood, but in the wake of “Me Too” they have become increasingly passe–at least that is what The Beta Test would have us believe.
And it’s not just empowered women who have broken these men’s–how shall we say it–asses. No.
It’s as if the whole entertainment industry is streaming, while they–the agents–are still on cable.
Understandably Jordin is quite nervous about the state of his career, but he has never developed the necessary people skills to carve out a niche or possessed enough common sense to map out an exit strategy. He hasn’t because he hasn’t had to; he’s an early 30s, white, middle class male. Duh.
Instead he doubles down on rehearsed cliches and ramps up the jittery ticks of failing entitlement. Think of a mime on freebase.
Or Jim Carey.
Incredibly, despite Jordin’s abundant weirdness, he has a perfectly lovely, a perfectly normal fiancé named Caroline. Caroline is dutifully planning their wedding, a mere six weeks away. She asks very little of Jordin–only that he compose and send a few emails. He stalls around about doing it.
One day, Jordin gets a purple envelope embossed with gold lettering in the mail. It appears to be an invitation of some sorts.
He opens it. Lo and behold that’s what it is. And it’s not just any old invitation either. It’s a no strings attached sexual tryst with a stranger invitation. To say that Jordin is interested is putting it mildly.
Of course he doesn’t have the moral clarity to resist, so when he throws the invitation in the trash we know he will soon be digging it out. And we’re right. He’s wary as a weasel doing it too. He reconnoiters. He schemes. He scurries. Amusingly. Cringingly.
Meanwhile, people all over the place are getting these invitations. And there are ramifications. Murders even.
In fact, that’s the way The Beta Test opens–with a particularly brutal, especially disturbing murder scene. Well, it happens in the first ten minutes of the film to be accurate, which is perfectly consistent with it being a black comedy.
Calling The Beta Test a black comedy, though, is like calling a hamburger a sandwich. It is, technically, but that doesn’t really cover it. It’s a social commentary, too. And an erotic/techno thriller. Shoot, there may even be some neo noir mixed up in there.
But I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a mashup. The Beta Test is too aloof for that. Therein lies the film’s vulnerability; it’s confusing and snobby.
There is one thing that the film is crystal clear about, however–Jordin. He’s a creep.
Accordingly, cinematographer Kenneth Wales films him up close and sweaty, while Los Angeles gets the wide swath, tilt angle framing so it looms, hungrily, over the squirming little lickspittle, giving him what he gives secretaries, clerks, wait staff and his fiancé: no respect and a very hard time.