A nameless private investigator follows a beautiful woman as she travels all over the United States, realising as he goes that she is a serial killer of her sexual partners. As he finds himself occasionally protecting her from capture, he is forced to examine his own motives...
In 1980, Marc Behm, (screenwriter of 1965's Help!), published The Eye Of The Beholder, a mix of private-eye Existentialism and Nabokovian road trip. The novel hinges on a perhaps-real, perhaps-imagined father-daughter relationship between the Eye, a dead-ended dick who should have been played by Gene Hackman in Night Moves/The Conversation mode, and a disguise-adopting woman who marries and murders for money a succession of unworthy men (and one woman).
By now, you've had a chance to see this story as a French adaptation (Mortelle Randonnée, with Isabelle Adjani), a Hollywood rip-off (1987's Black Widow, with Theresa Russell) and even a porno (also called Black Widow). Sadly, great, intensely cinematic material has been in the cooker so long it has gone off. Director Elliott's biggest success was The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert; here he shifts from Australia to America and tries for another road trip tinged with the surreal.
Elliott's script restores the settings missing in the French film and the father-daughter business that Black Widow junked, but crucially bungles things by casting geeky McGregor as the Eye, who talks annoyingly to an imaginary daughter and thinks wearing a fire-engine red Parka on a surveillance trip is good PI practice. Making the protagonists the same age means that the neuroses of fatherless girl and daughterless man fail to make a fit, reducing the Eye to yet another man who falls for a killer babe.
Ashley Judd, however, emerges as a real star, and the most affecting relationship in the film is the subtle one between Joanna and a mother-substitute teacher (Geneviève Bujold), who has with love and bitterness moulded an orphan into a killer and might be working the trick on new generations of girls.
Elliott has an Avengers-like knack for odd images, but his problem with whole scenes and endings finally makes Eye Of The Beholder a bewildering and frustrating experience.