Holy Smoke

Film

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Time Out says

Far from her suburban Sydney home, backpacker Ruth Barron (Winslet) is so touched by an Indian guru that even mum turning up with tales of dad's imminent demise can't lure her back. Ironically, mum's own asthmatic reaction to Delhi leads to Ruth escorting her to Oz, where awaits wizard 'cult exiter' PJ Waters (Keitel), hired by the family to rid Ruth of her plans to become one of her mentor's wives. His three-step process takes place in a cabin in the desert, a suitably scorched, remote arena for a blazing battle of wills that takes them beyond conventional power struggles into a heady realm of love, hate, doubt and desire. With its switches in tone, from searing psycho-drama to broad, exuberant comedy, its sometimes purposeful, sometimes meandering narrative and its bright hues, the film initially seems an efficient if uneven entertainment. As it progresses, however, with Ruth and PJ moving into ever murkier territory, it becomes easier to discern a thematic thread: how we're all conditioned, and how we must interrogate traditional assumptions to discover our real selves. It's brave, adventurous, refreshingly frank - qualities also marking the performances, particularly those of the leads.
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Release details

UK release:

1999

Duration:

115 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5
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NP

Holy Smoke is much, much less than it could be. The premise is great: guru-inspired girl, Ruth (Kate Winslett) is 'rescued' by mum and put in the hands of expert 'de-programmer', PJ (Harvey Keitel), but the film descends into a combination of farce and acting school improvisation. It's embarrassing in many ways. The writing has promising moments, but descends into vagary and rhetoric which appears to be but one notch above writer's block. It's clumsily ideological with large brush strokes on a ruined canvas. A willing suspension of disbelief is lost on all fronts as stereotyping rules the day and the matter of transference/counter-transference turns into a soggy pulp of non-identity. Even the music sucks! Apart from the admirable consistency of Kate Winslett, as actress, to make the best of whatever she does, there are no saving graces here. Even Keitel is at sea. This is possibly one film they would both prefer to forget. Avoid this film, unless you want to see why Winslett might have been chosen as the ideal candidate for 'Hideous Kinky'. It could have been so much more; it's hard to imagine how it could have been any less.

NP

Holy Smoke is an incredibly bad film. The premise is great, if a little far-fetched: guru-inspired girl, Ruth (Kate Winslett) is 'rescued' by mum and put in the hands of expert 'de-programmer', PJ (Harvey Keitel), but the film descends into a combination of farce and acting school improvisation. It's embarrassing. One imagines a very basic story-board preceding the day's shooting: even the editing doesn't save it. The writing, similarly, has promising moments, but also descends into vagary and rhetoric which emanates from one notch above writer's block, never from the poorly developed characters involved. It's not simply non-naturalistic, either; it's pulp diction and a ruined canvas. A willing suspension of disbelief is lost on all fronts as stereotyping rules the day and the matter of transference/counter-transference turns into a soggy pulp of non-identity. Even the music sucks! Apart from the admirable consistency of Kate Winslett, as actress, to make the best of whatever she does, there are no saving graces here. Even Keitel is at sea. This is possibly one film they would both prefer to forget. Avoid this film, unless you want to see why Winslett might have been chosen as the ideal candidate for 'Hideous Kinky'. It could have been so much more; it's hard to imagine how it could have been any less.