Holy Smoke (2000) - Rotten Tomatoes

Holy Smoke (2000)



Critic Consensus: Superb performances hindered by weak script and incoherent story.

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Movie Info

It's said that sex and religion are two subjects that no one can discuss without arguing; writer/director Jane Campion tackles both head-on in this satiric comedy drama. On a trip to India, Australian Ruth (Kate Winslet) has a spiritual awakening and embraces the teachings of a guru named Baba. Back home in Sydney, Ruth's mother and father (Julie Hamilton and Tim Robertson) are appalled to learn that their daughter now answers to the name Nazni and has no intention of returning. Mother visits her daughter in India in hopes of convincing her to come home, but it's not until she suffers a life-threatening asthma attack that Ruth agrees to return for a visit. Mother pretends to arrange a meeting with Ruth's father, who has been ill, and this trick lands Ruth in the clutches of P.J. Waters (Harvey Keitel), an American exit counselor who deprograms members of religious cults. Waters begins to loosen Ruth's belief in Baba's teachings, but P.J. finds himself sexually attracted to Ruth, and in time she allows him to seduce her. Ruth soon turns the tables on P.J., as she discovers that sex allows her to make mincemeat of his long-held beliefs as a macho, misogynist male. Jane's sister Anna Campion, herself a director, co-authored the screenplay; Pam Grier appears in a supporting role as P.J.'s partner and girlfriend.

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Kate Winslet
as Ruth Barron
Harvey Keitel
as P.J. Waters
Sophie Lee
as Yvonne
Dan Wyllie
as Robbie
Dan Wylie
as Robbie
Pam Grier
as Carol
Leslie Dayman
as Bill-Bill
as Dancing Boy
Saurabh Srinivasan
as Dancing Boy
Dhritiman Chatterjee
as Chidaatma Baba
Robert L. Joseph
as Miriam's Taxi Driver
as Boy Who Runs with Taxi
John Samaha
as Chatiwali, Shiva's Diner
Miranda Cleary
as Priya's Daughter
Ante Novakovic
as Man with Trolley
Diana Kotatko
as Woman with Trolley
Patricia Lemon
as Woman with Trolley
Ethan Coker
as Toddy Barron
Ellie Burchell
as Tiffany Barron
Morgan Watt
as Boyfriend
Luke Testo
as Boyfriend
William MacKay
as Boyfriend
David Franco
as Boyfriend
Mark Gray
as Dope Peddler
Johannes Brinkmann
as Ruth's Boyfriend
Eric Schussler
as Cult Video Reporter
Joan Bogden
as Cult Video Reporter
Robert Lee
as Cult Video Reporter
Doc Neeson
as Member of the Angels
Rick Brewster
as Member of the Angels
John Brewster
as Member of the Angels
Jim Hilburn
as Member of the Angels
Brent Eccles
as Member of the Angels
Eva Martin
as Devotee
Mira Wright
as Devotee
Polly Wright
as Devotee
S. Samaran
as Devotee
Adina Kumar
as Devotee
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Critic Reviews for Holy Smoke

All Critics (82) | Top Critics (29)

All sorts of questions go unanswered, and there's little of the density found in Campion's early work; this is mainly smoke, not fire.

April 27, 2012 | Full Review…

Original in every sense, this often difficult film about family, relationships, sexual politics, spiritual questing, faith and obsession further explores the director's abiding fascinations in excitingly unconventional terms.

June 17, 2008
Top Critic

Ms. Winslet is, by contrast, champagne and caviar for moviegoing grown-ups with good taste.

April 27, 2007 | Full Review…

It's brave, adventurous, refreshingly frank -- qualities also marking the performances, particularly those of the leads.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Behind the philosophical smoke burns a genuine comedic fire.

December 12, 2002 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

At once hilarious and serious, cruel and tender, and bristling with vitality, Holy Smoke is the right movie for the millennium, envisioning new possibilities in the way people view and relate to one another.

August 15, 2002 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Holy Smoke


Holy Smoke is right! Kate Winslet definitely sets the screen on fire, literally and figuratively, in this one as Ruth Barron, a young, idealistic woman, whose parents (Julie Hamilton, Tim Robertson) become concerned when she joins a commune of like-minded seekers in India, under the sway of a charismatic guru. Tricked into returning to her native Australia, she is ambushed by her family and whisked away to a secluded hut for deprogramming by a highly successful American deprogrammer, PJ Waters (Harvey Keitel). What takes place in this desolate location is outside the bounds of any reputable therapy. This is a game (or is it) of cat and mouse and the power shifts back and forth quite precipitously and nearly devastatingly. Excellent performance by the leads, and convincing character development by the supporting cast propel this compelling tale. Surprisingly light moments of wry humor keep this from becoming too unrelentingly dark but without causing it to descend into parody. The control of the plot by Jane Campion feels sure-handed and exhibits a director firmly confident in her craft. The scenery is beautifully desolate and the cinematography is striking. Only a slight letdown at the end detracts from the overall impact.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

Although this movie lacks in coherent ideas, it managed to keep me interested the whole way through. It touches on concept after concept, but never settles on a particular intention, or, for that matter, a particular genre. Being a fan of both Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel, I was interested in seeing this to watch them act together. Their work here is not disappointing. Both actors deliver fearless, intently psychological performances that prevent this film from being a total disaster. The sexual relationship between their characters is unpleasantly explored and often quite perverse, but they are talented enough to make it work better than it probably should.

Mike T.
Mike T.

Super Reviewer


Unsustained comedy drama with Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel in the Australian outback.

Dean McKenna
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

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