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Holy Smoke (1999)

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While on a journey of discovery in exotic India, beautiful young Ruth Barron falls under the influence of a charismatic religious guru. Her desperate parents then hire P.J. Waters, a macho ... See full summary »


2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Julie Hamilton ...
Sophie Lee ...
Tim Robertson ...
Yani (as George Mangos)
Kerry Walker ...
Les Dayman ...
Bill-Bill (as Leslie Dayman)
Samantha Murray ...
Stan (as Austen Tayshus)
Simon Anderson ...
Eva Martin ...


While on a journey of discovery in exotic India, beautiful young Ruth Barron falls under the influence of a charismatic religious guru. Her desperate parents then hire P.J. Waters, a macho cult de-programmer who confronts Ruth in a remote desert hideaway. But P.J. quickly learns that he's met his match in the sexy, intelligent, and iron-willed Ruth.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He had only one thing on his mind... but so did she! See more »


Drama | Comedy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

18 February 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Holy Smoke!  »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$33,307, 5 December 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,758,780, 9 April 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to an interview following the shoot, Kate Winslet admitted that in the urination scene, there was bag taped to her leg to pull off the effect. Finally, she got frustrated and asked co-Writer and Director Jane Campion if she could just urinate herself. Campion did one take this way, but the urine was harder to control than Winslet had thought, and the take was scrapped. See more »


As the pickup truck with Ruth and PJ pulls away near the end of the film, the camera rig and crane are reflected in the truck's rear window. See more »


PJ: I don't hate women. I love ladies.
Ruth Barron: Ha! Ladies! You wouldn't know any. I bet you date little Barbie dolls, don't you? "Oh, you're so brainy, you're so big! Can I suck your dick?" Can I be alone now?
See more »


Referenced in Stars!: Kate Winslet See more »


The Lord's Prayer
(Music by Albert Hay Malotte (as A.H. Malotte))
© G. Schirmer, Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

"Where there's fire, there's smoke"
25 June 2000 | by See all my reviews

Bizarre. Fascinating. Flawed. Out of control. Definitely not ordinary. I can use all those expressions to show what I feel about "Holy Smoke", but I think they are not enough to express all my mixed feelings about it. This is not an easy film to watch and more difficult than that to review, but I can say that its qualities overcome the majority of its flaws.

"Holy Smoke" is a story about two totally different people. Ruth is a young Australian woman who travels to India and there starts to take part in a cult, getting fascinated with it. Her family starts to get worried about that and contracts PJ Waters, the other face of the coin, to make Ruth forgets her new beliefs and return to a normal life. They will spent some very unusual days in a hut on the desert, where we don't know who is in charge of the situation. Jane Campion writes and directs this weird and tense story with a wonderful passion. She tries to escape from all the clichés and succeeds in. There are some other stories of Ruth's weird family: her gay brother, her nymphomaniac sister-in-law, her ingenuous mother. This is the humorous part of the film, where you'll see even a sheep serving as a table at Ruth's house. But, strangely, "Holy Smoke" didn't feel as a dramatic comedy. It's one of those pictures that you can't define the genre with sure.

All the qualities and flaws of "Holy Smoke" come from the directing and the writing. There are some slow moments, exaggerated situations, some out of places scenes which could have been easily deleted. These are the main reasons why I didn't enjoy very much Jane Campion's earlier works: the overrated "The Piano" and the tasteless "The Portrait of a Lady". But here the flaws sometimes can be forgotten because Campion explains the story better than in her other works and succeeds in captivating the audience with an interesting story, discussing subjects as sex and religion with the right tone.

The one who really shines here is Kate Winslet. Harvey Keitel is great as always, but Ms. Winslet gives us an Oscar caliber performance. She doesn't have problem in appearing naked, sing, dress Keitel with a red dress and say what she thinks. I'm sure that her performance won't disappear in smoke, at least for me.

"Holy Smoke" was very criticized and snubbed, but it deserves a second chance. I agree that it is flawed and obviously not for everyone. But watch it with patience, pay attention at the subliminal messages, have some fun and think a little. It is worth the price of the ticket.

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