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 PJ Waters, a macho ...
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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 PJ Waters, a macho cult de-programmer who confronts Ruth in a remote desert hideaway. But PJ quickly learns that he's met his match in the sexy, intelligent and iron-willed Ruth! Written by
Jane Campion takes us to dark territory again in 'Holy Smoke' but this time with a touch of comedy. I am surprised at the negative response so many have claiming that it is anti-feminist blah blah blah or that it is a comedy with no substance. On the contrary, I find 'Holy Smoke' to be a provocative piece full of substance.
The refreshing novel concept is pretty daring and Campion balances both dark humour and intensity. She tackles various relevant themes such as respect and care within the family (the mother is the only one who seems to be concerned about what happened to her daughter in India while the father is totally indifferent), sexual manipulation, spirituality vs brainwash, power control and so on. The viewer is totally absorbed on how the de-programmer 'saves' Ruth but things take unexpected turns and we start questioning who exactly this PJ Waters is. The relationship between PJ and Ruth gradually becomes reminiscent of that between Lolita and Humbert (from Kubrick's 'Lolita'). The dysfunctional family is portrayed in a funny light but the characters's (especially the women's) despair and struggle is evident such as Mom being concerned about her daughter and Yvonne who is unhappy with her sex life. Campion, with the help of the actors, creates this whole mysterious atmosphere through the characters. We are given some nice glimpses of the isolated dry Australian landscape.
The performances are terrific. Kate Winslet, even though occasionally switches back to her own British accent, acts phenomenally. She already made a brave choice by choosing such a risky role and the actress just shows how comfortable she is in the skin of her character and mesmerizes the viewer. Harvey Keitel does nothing short of a fine job but he is obviously overshadowed by Winslet. The supporting cast, especially Sophie Lee (as Ruth's desperate and sleazy sister-in-law) and Julie Hamilton (as the concerned and loving mother).
'Holy Smoke' is a well-made and brave film. Clearly it is not for everyone. There are very few movies that are both funny and thought-provoking. 'Holy Smoke' is one such captivating film.
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