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Holy Smoke (1999)

1:42 | Trailer
Ruth's been brainwashed by a guru in Delhi, India. Her parents in Sydney hire a specialist in reversing this. Ruth is tricked to return to Australia and is isolated in an outback cabin with the specialist. It gets messy.


Jane Campion
2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kate Winslet ... Ruth
Harvey Keitel ... PJ Waters
Julie Hamilton ... Mum
Sophie Lee Sophie Lee ... Yvonne
Dan Wyllie ... Robbie
Paul Goddard ... Tim
Tim Robertson ... Dad
George Rafael ... Yani (as George Mangos)
Kerry Walker ... Puss
Les Dayman ... Bill-Bill (as Leslie Dayman)
Samantha Murray Samantha Murray ... Prue
Sandy Gutman ... Stan (as Austen Tayshus)
Simon Anderson ... Fabio
Pam Grier ... Carol
Eva Martin Eva Martin ... Devotee


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 »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Miramax | Official Facebook


USA | Australia


English | Hindi

Release Date:

18 February 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Holy Smoke! See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$33,307, 5 December 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Anna Campion, the film's co-screenwriter, said of this movie: "Despite what many would say is an enormous revolution within one generation, there's still a lot of misogyny out there. There's still a large proportion of people trying to hold onto the idea of women being a backdrop for society. and some nervousness from women as a result, a sense of 'we have to be careful all the time because otherwise we're perceived as threatening. That's something we wanted to address. We wanted Ruth [Kate Winslet] to be bold and not to care for P.J. [Harvey Keitel]'s good opinion." 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.
Ruth Barron: I wasn't born!
See more »

Alternate Versions

The sex scene between Keitel and Winslet has been trimmed in the U.S version. On the Australian VHS, Keitel is seen putting himself between Winslet's legs and reaching down to his crotch before thrusting. As they are making love, Winslet says "Don't come, don't come", then there is the sound of Keitel doing so. He stops, and Winslet moans for a bit before the film cuts to the next scene. In the U.S version, they trim Keitel getting inbetween her legs and reaching for his crotch. The scene plays out as normal just until Keitel "comes" and the sound of Winslet moaning is also trimmed. The U.S version also misses some of the thrusting and related sounds. See more »


Referenced in Eisai to tairi mou: Episode #1.2 (2001) See more »


Jaag Musafir
(Music by Raghunath Seth (as Pt. Raghunath Seth) / Lyrics by Narayan Agarwal)
Performed by Hari Om Sharan & Nandini Sharan
Courtesy of Tips Cassettes & Records Co.
See more »

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User Reviews

The film doesn't quite nail what it so clearly wants to do, but is somewhat interesting none-the-less.
16 May 2009 | by johnnyboyzSee all my reviews

I wanted to like Holy Smoke more than I did. There is a clear study in the film, a likable element about it that establishes one thing, develops that and then has the audacity to spin things around onto its head for our own amusement. The film isn't bad as much as it is a little misguided and inconsistent in tone; thus, a tad frustrating by the end. It would have been nice for the film not to have spilt out into a realm of comedy and not get so over-rawed by itself when it relies purely on the image of Harvey Keitel in a dress to get across feeling instead of developing what new level it's attempting to lever up onto.

The film is principally a study of the power certain people or 'texts' can have over others, or those of a weaker, more naive, disposition. The one thing the film does tell us is that it can be anybody who falls for the charms or tricks of anybody else, even macho PJ Waters (Keitel) who is supposed to be this ego-driven; ever immune; hard-as-nails; 'never takes no for an answer' and 'nobody puts one over him' caricature. The film's other victim of texts or ideation's that have 'influenced' them to act in artificial ways is a certain Ruth Barron (Winslet), a simplistic and relatively likable Australian girl with a steady life and a family that is very fond of her.

PJ exists in the film because of Ruth's inability to deal with the influence a certain Indian guru's image and ideas have on her. Ruth exists in the film to bring PJ into her life and furthermore influence him in both a spiritual and sexual sense. For the best part, the film looks at what affect certain texts and teachings can have on the young and outgoing plus whatever affect those attempting an anti-thesis on these beliefs can further suffer at the hands of their own patient. Unfortunately, the film cannot hold it all together and incorporates elements including, but not limited to: slapstick comedy; loose, sexy women as a drive for potential humour; well-known, female global stars in the nude for sake of hearsay as well as well known, male global stars dressed as women for a similar sake.

The film begins with Ruth in India. Whilst there, she falls under the influence of a popular Indian guru at the tapping of a forehead and a staring into the eyes. Job done, it would seem. Following this, she becomes trapped in the mindsets and ways of life so much so, that her mother has to fly out in order to 'rescue' her. Ruth doesn't come home initially, but after some banter and some comedy revolving around what a supposed dump really India is, she returns to Oz. Once home, there is a particularly eerie scene in which members of her own family have gathered as one to subdue her, thus refraining her from escaping back to the 'evil' world of India with all their 'evil' influential practises that they do on young, Western women. Could have been worse; they could've conned her into giving away her credit card details as well.

Hark, when there's something strange – and it don't look good, who are you going to call? Why, PJ Waters of course – a man listed somewhere in the phone-book under 'exorcist', I imagine. PJ is charged with ridding Ruth of these Hindu beliefs. I didn't think it would be so easy, otherwise we wouldn't have had a film, would we? I was expecting it to bed down and become a struggle of sexual politics as this gum chewing, snake skin boot wearing, shades wearing person, who's given all the build up he needs, went up against this young woman out to discover herself in the big, wide world. I was expecting a study of identities, a look at the role of one's self in contemporary Australia and how the Indian 'beliefs' perhaps elevated her to a new spiritual sense thus helping her see things the way she wanted.

What we get is a bizarre passage of events. The 'exorcism' plays out and mutates into a sort of 'patient begins to become object of doctor's desire' relationship between the two that further aids in bringing out PJ Waters' feminine side, so to speak. I found it quite amusing at how female director Jane Campion turns the tables on us; how she presents the female of the piece as weak minded and foolish, while the male is the battle-weary, intellectual individual out to 'correct' the female before mixing it all up and turning it on its head. Alas, on the whole, Campion is more interested in shooting Winslet in an array of skimpy outfits (before Kietel gets a chance of his own); she is more interested in a young boy dressed as Batman jumping off a car roof and smacking into the ground as a guardian fails to catch him; she is more interested in the flirtatious attitudes of Yvone (Lee) to act as humour and when lines like "I'm sorry Ruth, I should never have slept with you." from PJ evoke guffaws more than anything else, you sort of realise things are not all well.

There were some things I liked about Holy Smoke, but they aren't focused on enough for me to recommend it. Once Ruth becomes PJ's object of desire following a bizarre scene in a night club, the film falls apart somewhat and just becomes a slightly unconventional love story with very un-cinematic, and un-likable in equal measure, words like 'quirky' and 'kooky' being able to be attributed to it. The premise has been solved, we're heading off in new directions and the whole thing just fizzles out in a misery-strewn manner. Not a disaster, but not focused and even enough to be fond of.

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