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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


Sex captive in desert hideaway...young beauty seduced by macho American twice her age. 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

Show more on  »

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 »


When PJ is driving in the red outfit, he is on the left-hand "driver" side. When the lady gets in the car, he then has switched to the right-hand side (still driving). The lady is then in the left driver side where PJ was originally. See more »


PJ Waters: I was young once, too, and handsome. You'd have been impressed.
See more »


Referenced in Intimate Portrait: Pam Grier (1999) See more »


I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Written by Tommie Connor (as T. Connor)
© 1952 Jewel Music/Jewel Music (Australia)
Administered in Australia by the Nightlight Music Group
Performed by Jimmy Boyd
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony Music Entertainment (Australia) Limited
See more »

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User Reviews

Smoked Poison
30 December 2008 | by See all my reviews

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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