Eye of the Beholder:

By Jessica Laughren

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Eye (Ewan McGregor) in this case is a British intelligence officer and the Beauty is Joanna Eris (Ashley Judd), a diabolical and seductive murderess.

The Eye is assigned to track down Eris, the prime suspect in a blackmailing scandal involving the son of a British official. Plagued by the recent loss of his wife and daughter, for which he blames his own passivity, the Eye becomes determined not to lose this beauty. Although remaining impartial is a crucial part of his job, the Eye cannot help but be fascinated by Eris–especially when he learns she bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost daughter.

As he follows Eris’ trail of bodies, his need to watch her increases. He does not want to capture this beauty, nor speak to her.

Directed by Stephan Elliott, (Pricilla Queen of the Desert) Eye of the Beholder is based on the novel by Mark Behm. The classic theme of obsession is set in the modern world of high-tech voyeurism. However, there is no sophisticated and suave 007 in this movie. Instead, McGregor convincingly portrays the scruffy and detached Eye; think Colombo meets James Bond’s flare for electronic gadgetry. Substituting "shaken not stirred martinis" for stale coffee, McGregor credibly replaces the intelligence officer’s predictable routine for a suspenseful ßy by the seat of your pants approach to surveillance.

He is aided in this unique approach by his ally and connection to the outside world, his assistant Hilary (K.D. Lang). Lang is excellent as the sharp-tongued and aggressive sidekick to McGregor’s mange. Her appearances are few and brief throughout the film, but add an appropriate twist of humour to the otherwise dark plot.

In true femme fatale style, Judd is riveting as the disturbed seductress with uncontrollable rage. Her trademark sultry voice and commanding stare convince the audience of her character’s demonic side. Yet her constant changes of appearance, like a child playing dress up, and her petite physical stature reveal an innocence and vulnerability to her character.

An example of this contrast is evident when Judd’s character encounters Gary, played by scene-stealer Jason Priestley. With a faded Hawaiian shirt, badly bleached surfer hair and disco shades, he pulls up in his Jaguar. Judd struts over to his car, using her overtly sexual approach to persuade him to give her a ride. The audience is convinced that this happy-go-lucky idiot, is going to be Judd’s next victim. Instead, the tables are turned and Judd’s child-like vulnerability is exposed, clashing violently with Priestley.’s Jekyll-like persona.

It is this type of unpredictability that abounds and leaves the audience in constant suspense. This uncertainty is fueled by the Eye’s obsession with Eris.

Elliott conveys the excitement of this obsession throughout the film In contrast, using selective dim lighting and eerie music, Elliott is equally able to express the sadness that his protagonist and female lead struggle with. As a third and final element, the plot is cleverly saturated with irony. As a result, Elliott toys with all three of these concepts throughout the movie and realizes a riveting combination. Indeed, thanks to the actors’ superb chemistry, these concepts are well combined while not overshadowing the storyline.

Perhaps the only pitfall of this movie is its ending. Elliott was so successful in building to the film’s climax that the audience was eagerly anticipating an encounter between the Eye and Eris. Their meeting is incredibly anti-climatic. The couple’s conversation was fleeting and unemotional. On the surface, the ending seemed like a bizarre and lame conclusion to the film It seemed as if Elliott had lost steam and faltered with the film’s ending.

But if you look deeper, the otherwise bizarre ending could be explained in terms of the old saying–beauty is in the eye if the beholder. Perhaps in this case it shouldn’t have materialized.

Whichever conclusion you opt for Eye of the Beholders is definitely a film worth seeing. It opens Jan. 28.


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