"Eye of the Beholder" isn't a title, it's a warning label. What's going on in this movie is anybody's guess.
An erotic thriller/mystery/failed cerebral art film, starring Ashley Judd as an esoteric serial killer and Ewan McGregor as her high-tech stalker/guardian, this flick is steeped in spiraling twists and volatile psyches which seemingly build toward a shock finale that never arrives.
Based on a novel by Marc Behm, it raises dozens of questions that go unanswered. It provides only snippets of backstory, leaving its characters half-revealed. And all the while, it's readily apparent that writer-director Stephen Elliott ("Welcome to Woop Woop," "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") considers himself terribly cagey.
If Elliott does know what's really going on in this movie, he seems unwilling to share.
McGregor plays an emotionally unstable surveillance man who becomes obsessed with Judd on a stake-out, quits his secretive government job, and spends the movie following her hither and yon across the nation (Montreal substitutes unconvincingly for various U.S. cities). He watches through hidden cameras as she changes wigs and kills her lovers at every stop -- occasionally breaking down afterwards and crying "Merry Christmas, daddy!" -- whatever that means.
It's never (and I do mean never) clear who she is or why he cares, although convoluted clues are dropped throughout the film -- along with a lot of repetitive, surreal symbolism that ultimately means very little.
McGregor is haunted by visions of his missing daughter and mention is made of his wife, who apparently disappeared at the same time. Could Judd be the AWOL spouse gone gonzo? Our hero sure gets jealous -- and vengeful -- when she meets a guy she doesn't want to kill. Or is she just a voyeur's substitute? Maybe there's no connection at all. Maybe Elliott just incites speculation because he has nothing better to do.
"Eye" is tantamount a cheap erotic thriller, trying to smarten itself up by spouting mystical, metaphysical nonsense.
The movie fails on so many levels it's hard to remember them all, but coming immediately to mind are: the obvious soundstage sets; the innumerable logical loopholes; the immigrant filmmaker faux pas (Aussie Elliott doesn't realize there's no such organization as the "Federal Police" in America) and the almost emotionless acting.
Judd lets her icy character get the best of her and this performance is frozen stiff. And coming on the heels of his cardboard Ben Kenobi in "The Phantom Menace," McGregor's listless fixation here makes me think it's time to change his spark plugs.
Crooner K.D. Lang, cast as McGregor's contact at his unnamed government agency, borders on obnoxious while trying to exude affectionate moxie. Only Genevieve Bujold, as the elusive shrink at an institution where Judd grew up, shows even a modicum of true emotion when she kicks the nosy McGregor out of her office.
So what does he do? He goes back to following Judd. That's pretty much all he does: follow her, follow her, and follow her more, sleeping in back alleys and bell towers to keep an eye on the vampy, scampy girl.
"Eye" could have ended after the second reel, and for all intents and purposes been the same movie.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 28th January 2000
Distributed by: Desintation Film Dist. Corp.
Production compaines: Destination Films
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 9%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 78
IMDB: 4.9 / 10
Director: Stephan Elliott
Also starring: Genevieve Bujold