Movie News

Alexandra DuPont ponders the EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Published at: Jan. 25, 2000, 6:18 a.m. CST

Harry here with another review from that well-worded goddess from the world of Talk Back... Yes, that's right. It be Alexandra DuPont, again rapping on our chamber monitors. That rare and radiant maiden that the angels named... ummm... Alexandra DuPont. Here she allowed the EYE OF THE BEHOLDER to rake it's sharpened fingernails across her blackboard eyes... causing her to clench her teeth and ignite this kindling of an effort down below. Enjoy...

Alexandra DuPont reviews EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, starring Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd

Toujours, Harry. Alexandra DuPont here. Following is my review of “Eye of the Beholder,” a pretentious spy thriller/commentary-on-voyeurism-or-male-hegemony-or-something from writer-director Stephen Elliott (“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”). You might want to post the following at your site, as “Eye” will initially intrigue our fellow geeks -- due to its lead (Ewan McGregor), its high-tech gadgetry, and the murderous, miniskirted form of Ashley Judd.

I don’t really enjoy torpedoing artistically ambitious efforts, but this film just didn’t deliver for me, and I don’t think it will deliver for many other people, be they Bond-loving bubbas or art-house niche-dwellers. “Eye of the Beholder” reminds me of the Wim Wenders films I used to have to watch in film class, but in the worst possible sense: It takes all the plot-murkiness, locale-compression and oddball casting of “The American Friend” and “Until the End of the World” (both of which I liked, BTW) while leaving out their sense of whimsy. The result is mildly infuriating. Here’s the breakdown:

BUT FIRST, THE ATTACHED TRAILER AT THE SCREENING WAS: an apparently comic whodunit titled “Drowning Mona,” starring Bette Midler as an evil piece a’ white trash who dies, leaving Neve Campbell, Will Ferrell, Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis, and William Fitchner in her wake. From the trailer -- which, as we all know, is hardly indicative of the final product -- this looked like a rather forcibly “quirky” small-town mystery, with L.A. actors once again condescending to the masses with their portrayals of trailer trash. My eight bucks will go elsewhere, barring an excellent review (though Mssr. Fitchner, as always, looked interesting).

THE STORY: I’ll quote the plot summary from the film’s promotional materials, which sums up “Eye of the Beholder” so luridly and wrong-headedly as to merit study. My comments -- you know, for clarity -- are interspersed in brackets:

“Eye of the Beholder is a [not particularly] startling journey into obsession [actually, Ewan’s pretty obsessed from the get-go] -- the story of an intelligence agent so [rather ludicrously] taken with a beautiful killer that he cannot bear to apprehend her [though I’m sure the many men she kills with Ewan watching would really rather he had]. Set in the surreal [provided ‘surreal’ means ‘illogical’] world of a high-tech voyeur, the tale follows him across the country [with confusing abruptness] as he embarks on a desperate quest [that he could have voluntarily ended at any time after the first twenty minutes] for this enigmatic [meaning she changes her wigs a great deal] femme fatale.

“Ewan McGregor stars as The Eye [well, as Stephen Wilson, but ‘The Eye’ sounds cooler in PR], a lonely, isolated British intelligence agent who has lost both his wife and daughter, for which he blames himself [in the form of having the ‘ghost’ of his daughter annoyingly ever-present, singing songs and playing with clattering toys]. The Eye’s current mission is to track Joanna Eris (Ashley Judd), a woman suspected of blackmailing the son of a senior British official. But Eris is far more than a blackmailer....”

I must interject here. The following summary of Judd’s character, also taken from the PR materials, is sort of a masterpiece of the form -- lurid and trashily beautiful:

“She is a seductive, shadowy master of disguises, a frenzied murderer, a lost orphan and an abject mystery whose rage is as fierce as her beauty.”

Whew. I need a cigarette.

BUT ALEXANDRA, THAT ACTUALLY SOUNDS PRETTY COOL: Yes, but what the evil PR people fail to tell you, fellow geeks, is that this tale is not a sexy spy story, but rather a Surrealist Artistic Statement Made by Australians and Canadians. This means, in part, that a great deal of story logic is gone, the characters have choppy and/or infuriating motivations, and the film is full of artsy tropes: sniping from a church belltower, religious and pagan iconography, obvious metaphors in the dialogue, and -- get this -- the thematic use of a blind man in a movie about voyeurism. Isn’t it ironic?

Make no mistake -- I enjoy some artsy with my fartsy. (My favorite Woody Allen film is STARDUST MEMORIES, for pity’s sake). But “Eye of the Beholder” is the worst sort of art film, because it’s half-assed about it -- a sort of pretentious bland ambition.

WELL, HOW’S EWAN? He’s good. It’s refreshing to see a leading man unafraid of changing his posture and tone of voice to play a wimpy little dweeb who can’t find the testosterone to simply arrest this woman, get her some help, and then MAYBE ask her on a date after some much-needed therapy instead of following her around like a limping puppy with fiber optics and actually screwing up her attempts at redemption at least once.... Oh, sorry. Guess my compliment’s a bit double-edged, isn’t it?

AND ASHLEY JUDD? A very handsome woman, and more nuanced in her performance as the film goes on. But at the beginning, as she’s playing out this sort of femme fatale cliché, she adopts a rather unappealing monotone, so that she comes across more like one of those “whatever” girls who taunted you lads in high school -- albeit a “whatever” girl who stabs and shoots men and then howls, “Merry Christmas, Daddy!” afterward. I don’t believe this failure is Judd’s fault, actually: The role is so all-over-the-place on the page (YOU try playing a homicidal abandoned-child/truck-stop waitress/wigmaker sometime) that underplaying was probably the only sensible choice. Still, a crucial plot screw -- that this woman is so intriguing that it would make Ewan ignore whatever intelligence bureau he works for -- is not properly turned.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THE MOVIE? ANYTHING? It’s always interesting to see a foreigner’s take (a la Wenders) on America. Cities blend together, and people in crowds are given the “foreign treatment,” which I can’t really describe save to say that foreigners photograph us Yanks differently and a startling number of us, apparently, drink cognac and smoke Gitanes. Some of the shots -- particularly a car doing a brody into a lake -- are rather dreamy to behold. Plus, there’s a sort of surreal thrill in all the furious locale-changing. I mean, it’s RIDICULOUS: It’s like five minutes from the desert to Boston to Alaska, with Judd changing wigs left and right. And there are some cool scene transitions involving snowglobes that feel like what might result if Russell Mulcahy in his “Highlander” prime had photographed “Citizen Kane.”

WHAT’S THE WORST THING ABOUT THE FILM? Oh, that’s got to be a tie:

(1) Jason Priestly (!) doing one of those “quirky,” changed-haircut character performances that leading men sometimes do when they’re “stretching their craft.” He plays a drug-abusing sadistic white-trash attempted rapist who shaves his face but not his neck. (Incidentally, you can tell this film was written by an Aussie because at one point Priestly’s hick character says, “Piss off!”)

(2) Also, there’s the following exchange of dialogue:

Ashley Judd: “An expert -- how fortunate.”
Lothario who’s hitting on her: “Absolutely-tutely.”

Again, you have been warned.

Alexandra DuPont.

Readers Talkback

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  • Jan. 25, 2000, 6:46 a.m. CST

    But does Ashley get nekkid?

    by Cereal Killer

    Good review, Alexandra, but you left out the most crucial detail. Does Ashley Judd show some skin? I'm gonna go see this film even if it is crap because I'm totally in love with Ashley. She's one of the few actresses who'll still flash a little flesh in movies even after she gets famous. One thing you mentioned that I hate in movies; when they take a guy who's normally intelligent and make him obsess about a woman who seems to have no redeeming characteristic except for her physical beauty. There's no way I'd fall for a woman, no matter how sexy she was, if I saw her commit a cold-blooded murder.

  • Jan. 25, 2000, 8:05 a.m. CST

    Just call her "NIP"

    by gilmour

    I heard she shows some skin in a bathtub scene.

  • Jan. 25, 2000, 10:58 a.m. CST

    It's all HORRIBLY TRUE!!!

    by darken

    My friend and I caught this film at a test screen this summer and it was absolutely one of the most painful and boring films to sit through. By the end, despite the director's presence, the audience was loudly chanting for the demise of the characters and movie. The only thing I think I would disagree with the reviewer on was what the worst thing in this movie was... That damn "Merry Christmas, Daddy!" line is pretty fucking bad, but the best is this pickup line from Ewan at the end of the movie. Judd's characters tells the sad and lamentable tale of how her mean old father abadoned her on Christmas Eve, going, "I'm just a little girl who lost her daddy..." and Ewan responds in his goofy veiled Scottish with a lecherous, lustful look, "...And I'm just a daddy who lost his little girl!" This film Sucks.

  • Ah, the lovely Ashley Judd and her ALWAYS monotone performances. Does she really play anyone else but herself (strong woman that she is) in every movie? Judging the tone of these few TalkBacks, it's not her performance you're interested in anyway. I'll probably check it out just to watch McGreggor, who can't seem to do any wrong in my eyes. I hope he really gets a good leading man role soon. That or Lucas does a good job on EP2.

  • Jan. 25, 2000, 5:05 p.m. CST

    I still want to see it/Stardust Memories

    by Lazarus Long

    This trailer reeled me in because I realized the film was made before Ashley & Ewan were propelled into the stratosphere, and that it might be a cool indie thriller. Alexandra's review only solidifies my intent to see this. I'm glad she compared it to a lesser Wim Wenders film, because I happen to enjoy those. Perhaps The End of Violence was a let down to those who were expecting another Wings of Desire, but you still get more for your money than most of the other crap out there. Wim always has something to say, always has a strange and unique way of saying it, and if it sometimes just happens to fall through his fingers and spill all over the kitchen floor, I don't mind helping to pick up the pieces. Eye of the Beholder might not be quite as worthy, but hell, at least I'll get to stare at a couple of sexy stars for 2 hours. And I've been a fan of Priestly's going back to Tombstone! He's the next Lou Diamond Phillips! And on a final note, I thought I was the only defender alive of Woody Allen's Stardust Memories! There's nothing like a major director issuing a big "Fuck You" to critics and fans. No surprise, it was a critical dartboard, and didn't go over too well with the general public either. Perhaps it is a little paranoid and defensive, but you can't help thinking that many of the grotesque people who invade Woody's life in that film were modeled on real experiences. The struggle for a comedic artist to attempt to be serious isn't an easy one, and in certain ways that battle continues for the Woodman. I think possibly the greatest scene in Woody's entire filmography is the one in this film, when he is with Charlotte Rampling, and Louis Armstrong sings "Stardust" in the background. Gotta go watch it now...

  • Jan. 25, 2000, 5:11 p.m. CST

    <This sounds like a MST3k movie...>

    by Saulot

    Honestly. The trite plot, the stupid gadgets, and the little girl's ghost. Even the title screams "Make fun of me!" I can hear Crow, Servo, and Mike riffing on this movie already.--Saulot--

  • Jan. 25, 2000, 6:57 p.m. CST

    Can I be President of the Alexandra DuPont Fan Club?`

    by Funny Ha Ha

    Keep 'em coming, Alexandra -love your work. You are racheting up the quality of this site. As for Naughty sauce, your posting title gave me my best laugh so far today. This sounds like a must-miss.

  • Jan. 25, 2000, 7:16 p.m. CST

    A.DuP. responds: More bad

    by Alexandra DuPont

    It

  • Jan. 25, 2000, 9:04 p.m. CST

    drowning mona

    by M Lange

    I've seen this trailer, too. It looks quirky and Alexandra is right about those LA actors playing trailer trash. But what I want to know is, how does Nick Gomez end up directing a frothy little Fish Called Wanda wannabe starring Bette Midler. It just seems incongruous to me.

  • Jan. 25, 2000, 10:09 p.m. CST

    light bills, phone bills, tax bills....

    by dominican dandy

    Even cult directors have to eat.

  • Jan. 26, 2000, 12:32 a.m. CST

    EOTB

    by ToyGirl

    You guys are smoking crack! I saw the movie at a test screening too and thought it was very cool. Maybe you just have to be smarter than the average bear to get it. 'Dead Man on Campus' is obviously more your speed. Ewan's always cool. Ashley was hot and seeing 'Brandon' as a junkie would definately be worth $7!

  • Jan. 26, 2000, 4:01 a.m. CST

    MST3K Ready...

    by darken

    This movie IS totally ripe for people who like to watch a bad movie just to rip on it (I actually payed to watch "Batman & Robin," "Mummy" and "Lost in Space" in the theaters). But the best is the way they do the title screen when I saw it... Instead of putting the title "Eye of the Beholder," Ewan looks through a telescope and the camera gets a tight shot of his eye and then the title appears underneath "...OF THE BEHOLDER!" I can just imagine Crow yelling out, "But what about the CROTCH OF THE BEHOLDER?" Oh yeah, and all the Ashley Judd nudity is really filthy and gray looking. She's constantly washing off blood after she kills some poor rube who thinks she's hot (Although they never actually explained the connection between SEX and her FATHER who supposedly abandoned her). But it's always really ugly and bland looking nudity. In my opinion it takes a special kind of directorial talent to make naked Ashley Judd look repulsive. But the best and most laughable scene that hasn't been mentioned is when (SPOILER AHEAD) as Ewan pursues his daddy-less girl at the end on a motorcycle while she drives a car, she rolls down her window and they reach out to touch hands in this godawful show-stoppingly bad attempt at trying to be sentimental. As Ewan reached out this dude in the audience yelled out like Jim Carrey in the airport limousine from "Dumb and Dumber" "GOODBYE... MY LOVE!!!" Which was of course twice as funny when the Judd's car crashes. (END SPOILER'S FOR SHITTY FILM) If the studio's had any mercy, they would've pulled this film instead of hurting the careers of Ashley and Ewan. Those, poor, poor, bastards.

  • Jan. 26, 2000, 8:44 a.m. CST

    eye of the beholder ----->

    by c9751451

    I saw this a couple of months ago in Florence, Italy at the Odeon Cinehall (If any of you guys reading this get to go to Florence you should check out this grandiose old Theatre with Digital Sound - it plays movies in English every Monday and Tuesday). In it's favour it is initially intriguing and well filmed - with some flashy effects that any computer geek will appreciate. The story shows a lot of promise but kind of peters out to a fairly lacklustre conclusion that left some folk dissapointed. I have to say that I didn't hate the movie but everyone else that I was with did!! One of the last shots of the film shows Ewan riding his motorbike and holding out his hand to Ashley Judd with one of the cheesiest grins in movie history that got an unintentional laugh from the audience. All in all I didin't think it needed to be slated as much as it was by my mates but the general conciencous was bad - make up your own mind!

  • Jan. 26, 2000, 10:03 a.m. CST

    AHEm, I enjoyed Batman&Robin, The Mummy and Lost in Space.

    by gilmour

    Did I just admit that?

  • Jan. 26, 2000, 4:54 p.m. CST

    Alexandra DuPont is a sellout!

    by Psyberia

    She vears to the masses! Don't fall for her charm! Oh...wait...I wasn't supposed to post this until a few months down the road. I just wanted to get it out of the way before your quirky charm becomes even more loveable and everybody waits to read your next review. Great job! I will be steering clear from this movie and wait for "Breakin' 3: Electric Bugaloo Part Two".

  • Jan. 26, 2000, 5:16 p.m. CST

    Alexandra...

    by All Thumbs

    That was one of the best negative reviews I've read in a LONG time! I really enjoy feeling the reviewers loathing of a movie that sounds like a contrived excuse to change Ashley Judd's hairstyle and have her model some sexy-looking fashions that are throw-backs to the Hollywood "Golden Age." This is one of those movies you know is going to be bad, but you go anyways because you know it will supply you and your friends hours of laughs when you make fun of it later on. (You know, they need theatres or special showing times of movies like this or by Paul Veerhoeven...whatever...where the audience can just have a free-for-all with the flick.)

  • Jan. 26, 2000, 11:05 p.m. CST

    Alexandra

    by poodle

    Your reviews continue to be well above par for this site. I think this site would do so much better if Harry et al. stuck to spying and snooping out info, and just let you write the reviews! None of that ridiculous fictional setup or endless use of ellipses (WHAT'S WITH THE "..." HARRY?) Plus, unlike some people, you're not afraid to say a movie is bad! What a concept! Keep em coming, Lexy, and we'll keep readin!

  • Jan. 27, 2000, 11:13 a.m. CST

    Save your money...rent MITCHELL instead!

    by Monster Rain

    Ewan doesn't sound like a good private eye. He could take some tips from Mitchell. When Mitchell is trailing a perp, he simply walks up to their front door, flashes a badge and tells him he'll be parked outside! Then he sits down with the suspect and dines copiously on soup served by Merlin Olsen! And no one can touch Mitchell for forensic work. Watch in amazment as he rolls around drunkenly in a chalk outline. Stare in awe as he lays prostrate in his own filth, his bulging belly straining his gabardine pants! Stand and cheer as he defeats the villians using the almighty...YELLOW THING. Mitchell: He's not a private dick. He's very, very public!

  • Jan. 27, 2000, 1:49 p.m. CST

    another stardust memories fan

    by park legend

    i like all woody allen films

  • Jan. 29, 2000, 1:03 a.m. CST

    Eye of the Beholder: Meandering Mush

    by chinook403

    I have to agree with DuPont. It reminds me of the awful, pretentious movies we Canadians make all the time, ie: Atom Egoyan (most of what he has done) Pretty but all over the place and pretentious. Once I realized Canadians had a hand in it, I understood why it was so laborious and pointless.

  • Jan. 31, 2000, 3:33 p.m. CST

    agreed: "midly infurating." My reaction: "that's it?!"

    by Tom Veil

    I spent the next hour ranting about the ending of this movie... mostly about the fact that it didn't have one. Even the most juvenile film maker knows that a story needs a resolution to tie up the loose ends in a story. This story was a series of loose ends, with no resolution whatsoever. It just stops... we are not given so much as a clue as to how McGregor's character will turn out. The "end" of this movie is kind of like ......roll credits.

  • Jan. 31, 2000, 4:26 p.m. CST

    what the f*6%!

    by KC

  • Jan. 31, 2000, 4:27 p.m. CST

    what the f*#%!

    by KC

  • Jan. 31, 2000, 4:44 p.m. CST

    what the F8#%!

    by KC

    the previous have closely mimicked the experience of watching "Eye of the Beholder". A film that defies rational thought. You have no idea why anyone does anything. I don't even know where to begin. I know a few of you out there like to see bad movies and mock them, but this film, is really too mind-boggling to be enjoyed in that way. However if you can't lay your hands on any hallucinogens this film has a similar "nothing is what I thought: character motivation, finanace, social order, geography..." effect. Spoiler*By the way no one mentioned my favorite part: Ewan running up to the blind man- kicking the crap out of him and then running away screaming "she's gonna kill you!" *spoiler end