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A young Australian beauty named Ruth travels to India in search of the exotic. When her family hears that she is following a Guru, they imagine the worst. They hire a top American expert to lure her back to sanity. The young explorer and spiritual pro find themselves in the middle of nowhere in a place where rules don't apply and anything can happen. Ruth soon turns the tables on her cult buster.
Drama - Fans of stars Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel, admirers of director
Jane Campion, and those with a taste for the avant garde stand the
best chance of enjoying this strange comic drama. Viewers who like
their films straight and sedate, such as older viewers, should stay
away. The explicit sex and adult themes make the film inappropriate
for younger viewers.
PROFANITY: Occasional use of strong profanity. SEX/NUDITY: Explicit sex, some involving nudity. VIOLENCE: Some punches are thrown. DRUGS/ALCOHOL: Occasional drug and frequent alcohol use. ACTION: None. COMEDY: A few physical and surreal comic moments.
Up until a couple of days before its (failed) Academy-qualifying run in December, the latest film from idiosyncratic New Zealand-born director Jane Campion bore the more exclamatory moniker Holy Smoke!--an interjection that will serve as many people's immediate reaction to the picture. It certainly was mine--in a good way. If one is willing to go along with the decidedly strange path she and her able cast leads, Holy Smoke is a refreshingly bold and distinctive entertainment that makes one laugh and think--often at the same time.
Ruth (Kate Winslet), a young Australian woman of iconic beauty has a sense that something is missing in her life, indeed, in Western culture. Her travels bring her to India where she is touched by a Guru literally and figuratively. Ruth drops her travel plans and becomes a devotee, and her friend,
Prue, rushes back to Australia in horror.
Though Ruth's parents are skeptical about Prue's tabloid style of reportage, they are compelled to rescue their daughter. Ruth's mother, Miriam, immediately boards a plane to India, armed with a plan to save her. She will convince her unwilling and euphoric daughter that her father is dying. While talk of a dying dad doesn't do it, Miriam's unplanned and genuine panic attack achieves the desired result and Ruth is forced to accompany her mother back to Australia.
Meanwhile, the family has hired the very slick American "spiritual" expert,
P.J. Waters (Harvey Keitel) to deprogram her. P.J.'s success is built on a strict system of three steps employed over three days. Step one: get the subject's attention. Step two: once they are listening well, provoke them. Step three: their cloud of unreason will burst upon them and they will break down. Most important caveat; never work alone. He arrives on the scene like a seasoned sharp shooter from a Western movie-- cowboy boots, pressed jeans, body shirt, and blazer. With 189 successful deprogrammings behind him, what's one more?
The conditions, however, are far from perfect. The family is poorly organized, his assistant's mother died and there is no one with experience to replace him. The deprogramming threatens
to finish before it even begins. However, as the luminously beautiful Ruth walks towards him, corralled by her family,
P.J. finds himself feeling for the girl; she is cornered, courageous and frightened. There is something about this girl that lifts his spirits, an unadmitted attraction, a desire to be heroic and save her or a desire even to fail, after so many successes. He surprises himself by agreeing to go ahead with the job.