Eye of the Beholder

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Cedar: ***

Starring Ashley Judd, Ewan McGregor, k.d. lang, Geneviève Bujold

Rated R for some strong violence, sexuality, language and brief drug content

“Eye of the Beholder” is based on the novel by the same title published in 1980 and written by Marc Behm.  Anyone who views “Eye of the Beholder” should be very aware that the movie is based on the novel, not an adaptation of the novel.  A strict adaptation of the novel would have entailed the making of a movie that would have run over 100 hours.  The action of the novel takes place over a decade.  The plot of the novel is wrapped in dozens of sub-plots, and the sub-plots demand a great deal of the reader’s memory and imagination.  “Eye of the Beholder” was made the only way it could have been: several themes of the plot were set out as the story-line, and the action and dialogue were structured to bring these themes to their denouement.

Ashley Judd plays a psychopathological personality who makes her living by enticing men to make money or valuable objects available, and then she kills them.  The viewer of “Eye of the Beholder” has to understand there are persons in real life who are psychopathological personalities, and they kill persons who fit their abnormal needs.  As in real life, Ashley Judd’s character assumes many aliases.
The “real” name that Marc Behm gives to the female lead in the novel is “Joanna Eris.”  “Joanna Eris” is also the “real” name of Judd’s character in the movie.  “Joanna” is from the Hebrew, feminine name, meaning “God comforts.”  “Eris” is from the Greek, meaning “Strife.”

Ewan McGregor plays Detective Wilson, an employee of the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.  McGregor is called the “Eye” because he does electronic surveillance on behalf of the British government.  Mr. Hugo, the boss of the “Eye” gives him an assignment, namely, spying on Paul Hugo, the son of Mr. Hugo.  Paul Hugo is suspected of illegally taking money from a trust fund, and perhaps spending it on a “woman.”  As fate would have it, “Joanna” and the “Eye” begin their journey “together” during this assignment.

The “Eye” has his own personal problems: his wife has left him and has taken their daughter, and they have dropped out of sight.  The “Eye” has a hard time getting his daughter out of his mind and life.  His daughter keeps “showing up” as he attempts to get on with his life and work.

Into the movie, the viewer will learn the cause for “Joanna’s” slide into a personality that is contemptuous of men, and the cause of her resorting to murder when a problem comes up in her life.

In the mobile home scene, very near the end of the movie, where the "Eye" tries to help "Joanna" understand who he is and help her escape, Ashley Judd in the matter of only five or six seconds, without saying a word, expresses with her face the gamut of emotions from fear, to horror, to deception, to abandonment, and to the desperate need to know.  In these five or six seconds Ashley Judd lays open the soul of "Joanna Eris."

Then in the closing scene, if one has ever had a loved one in the grips of danger, one will understand why the “Eye” is so emotional.