"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." It may be a hackneyed old saying, but
it's used several times in "Eye of the Beholder", the new movie from
writer/director Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the
Desert). It also seems to describe this film fairly well. While the vast
majority of critics couldn't stand the film, calling it muddled, incoherent,
and inprobable, I found it quite interesting. The problem is, that while it is
beautifully filmed and involving, it is significantly marred by a horrible
ending and a lack of any likeable characters.
The film opens by introducing us to a nameless investigator (Ewan McGregor),
who works for a branch of the british government which seems similar to the
CIA. The investigator is known only as The Eye in the credits. His latest
assignment is to find out why the bosses son is ripping off the trust fund. He
finds the son with a lady (Ashley Judd) whom he has apparently been giving the
funds. For reasons unknown to us, she hacks him up with a butcher's knife and
then flees to the United States. The Eye follows her, first as part of his job,
and then slowly out of obsession over this woman.
I could write a whole lot more, but I don't want to give away too much of the
twisty plot. Alright, when I hear someone call a movie unrealistic or
improbable, I must admit to being a bit shocked. I could have sworn that one of
the main reasons people went to the movies was to escape reality and dull,
everday experiences. Okay, I'm done with my rant. "Eye of the Beholder" starts
off with a very amusing little intro, in which we're shown several useful
little gadgets which would make James Bond envious. Part of the fun with this
film is that all the high tech devices The Eye uses are realistic. They're not
overly sci-fi like, and they're not present to be used in only one situation,
like those in the Bond films.
I've always felt that one of the most important things in a movie is the
soundtrack. While a great soundtrack can't always save a movie, it can
certainly help one to forgive some of the film's shortcomings. On the other
hand, an awful soundtrack can completely derail a good film. "Eye of the
Beholder" has a wonderful soundtrack. It is rousing and fierce when needed,
subdued and moving when required. For example, there is a scene in which Ashley
Judd races over an Alaskan highway, images blurring through her mind. The score
which plays during this perfectly highlights the frenzy and frustration she is
feeling at that moment. Another point worth mentioning, is the interesting
transitions that Elliott uses throughout the film. They involve a snowglobe of
whatever town is being travelled to, slowly changing into the actual location.
You'll have to see the film to understand why snowglobes hold significance.
As I said, there are two major flaws at work in this film. One, is that nearly
every character we run into is completely despicable. Even Jason Priestley
shows up briefly as a druggie/rapist. Ashley Judd's character is a murderer, so
no redeeming qualities there. All the men she kills deserve it, and Genevieve
Bujold ("The House of Yes") shows up as a contemptable therapist. The Eye
himself is rather a sympathetic character at first, but then he does something
so horribly, horribly wrong that we can't feel any sympathy for him whatsoever.
The second flaw is the film's so called ending. It simply leaves the audience
completely befuddled. The film literally stops in mid-scene without resolving
anything. "Eye of the Beholder" runs a long 109 minutes, and I would recommend
catching a matinee if you can. I give it three and a half out of five stars.
Copyright © 1999 John Beachem