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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.44%
Worth A Look: 16.67%
Average: 19.44%
Pretty Bad40.28%
Total Crap: 4.17%

8 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Holy Smoke
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Exploring the limits & broadening horizons."
5 stars

Director Jane Campion is one of the foremost and widely noted --and lauded-- female directors, and "Holy Smoke!" is another reason why. The New Zealand native is also a prominent, and well developed screenwriter, shaing the writing credit for "Holy Smoke!" with her sister Anna Campion. "Holy Smoke!" boasts one of the strongest and well developed screenplays of 1999 (technically it was released in New York and Los Angeles for Academy consideration last December, but is just now going into wide release), and the details and structure of which it's written from gives itself a strong base upon which to build.

In "Holy Smoke!" Ruth Barron (Kate Winslet) and her friend Prue (Samantha Murray) have traveled from their homeland of Australia to India where Ruth is intrigued by the whole workings of spiritual cults. While attending a ritual, Ruth is touched --both physically and mentally-- and becomes a devotee. When her parents discover this, they take it to themselves to get her back, and until her mom Miriam's (Julie Hamilton) genuine panic attack after a series of failed false stories, Ruth must accompany her mum back to Australia.

Meanwhile, the rest of her family has hired a cult deprogramming specialist PJ Waters (Harvey Keitel). Upon her return, Ruth still believes her father (Tim Robertson) is on the brink of death (the main story fed to her in India), and when she discovers the ambidexterity of her parents' intent, it's too late because she's already trapped. The only way that Ruth can get out of it is by agreeing to be treated by Waters. PJ follows three steps: 1) Get the subject's attention; 2) Once they are listening well, provoke them; and 3) Their cloud of unreason will burst upon them and they will break down. First off, PJ, dressed looking like he freshly stepped off of a time machine from the 70s, takes Ruth to a desolate and lonely house out in the middle of nowhere. She struggles at first not to go along, but eventually sucuumbs to the psychology --or does she. Inevitably, it becomes a battle of the sexes, again mentally and physically, and a battle of the wills.

If Freud were still alive today, he would have a ball interpreting and psychoanalyzing "Holy Smoke!!" There's so much originality and depth brimming from this piece that it could easily spread the wealth with some of the more recent releases. "Holy Smoke!" starts off with a light, almost satrical tone and upon the initial entrance by Keitel, quickly changes its pace to a darker, more cynical tone. The mental and physical traducements were unexpected and temptous. The Campion sisters approach the script in a parody-like tabloid style and have built two very strong and life-like characters. The strength of the script lays within the developing of the story and characters, not necessarily so much with the dialogue. "Holy Smoke!" is given its bold and daring manner from a story that knows how to interweave structured plot points and managed to stay capricous and constantly on its toes. And the screenplay is not a simple one either; you cannot just go into "Holy Smoke!" expecting for the answers to be dropped on you. It comes with cogitation, and at least with my experience with the film, it continually grows on you afterwards. The exploration of the leads' psychosi couldn't be any deeper if desired.

Kate Winslet has found a challenging role and ran with it. In most cases she's done an adept job in taking on a variation of roles, like in "Jude," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Hamlet." She also surpasses that of the mediocrity of "Heavenly Creautres" and "Titanic." With "Holy Smoke!" Winslet gives herself a new distinction in a role that bares all. Harvey Keitel is also very good in more of a character performance than Winslet's, but the venerableness that Keitel brings to his improprietous character is on the mark. Aussie actress Sophie Lee ("The Castle") looking like a mod mix of Nicole Kidman and Sarah Michelle Gellar, turns up in a funny and quirky role as Ruth's sister-in-law. Lee provides enough humor to surmount the desire for laughs.

Jane Campion has been a favorite of mine for sometime with original, strong, and daring films such as "The Piano," "The Portrait of a Lady" and "Sweetie." It's very obvious to see Campion's passion for filmmaking, and the seriousness of it shows with her work. She has the ability to stay away from crossing into ambiguity, and eminates an aura of amazing control and restraint. It's wonderful to see such bravura filmmaking from a female director; there are too few that we recognize. One is at a task to conjure up any other distinct names of which have firmly established themselves. Kasi Lemmons ("Eve's Bayou") and Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry") have made extremely auspicious debuts, and I highly await their future contributions. But with Campion's "Holy Smoke!," it stands efficacious and boldly on its own.

Final Verdict: A-

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originally posted: 01/22/00 06:21:14
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User Comments

12/26/07 Mohammed kate is awesome,i wish i could see her peeing. she has a lovely bumb 4 stars
10/12/04 mas as 2 stars
10/11/04 Ian The only redeeming feature "Kate"..the worst? Harvy keitel 2 stars
2/18/04 Aslam Khan Her peeing got me really turned on. I wish I could see her cunt. 4 stars
1/25/04 Elena It was beautifully shot but I still don't get WHY Kate would have sex with that douchebag! 4 stars
8/12/03 asif stuart it was a sexiest movie with a charming kate winslet.i like it. 5 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby Ambitious but pretty ridiculous. Winslet's superb; Keitel woefully miscast. 2 stars
11/16/02 R.W. Welch Some intereting aspects but much of it just drags. 3 stars
11/04/02 Sheridan Intelligent and hard-hitting, with a brilliant performance from Kate 5 stars
8/23/01 umair i want to fuck kate and want my pinis into her sexy body .And her nipple into my mouth. 1 stars
7/04/01 Piz Winslet is fucking awesome, the movie isn't as good 2 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy The Campion sisters create a haunting, remarkable film here. 5 stars
11/17/00 Jacob Holder Probably one of the most underdeveloped pieces of cinema trash--very, very poor 1 stars
5/15/00 Tracy What was Jane Campion thinking? And Kate Winslet for that matter. 2 stars
4/14/00 Bec Pannell Some deep concerns about the portrayal of Australians 4 stars
3/05/00 vicky harwood does she need to wet herself then not shower for 3 days? check it out 1 stars
2/26/00 Costars Wonderful parts, whole too contrived 4 stars
2/25/00 Heather Ha ha, great movie, Keitel in a dress is one of the best movie scenes this year! 5 stars
1/31/00 Annie Nomad A spiritual/sexual "thriller". 5 stars
1/13/00 graham A little bit to much humour. 4 stars
12/25/99 Tha Obsequious Bad Janatah An excellent and complex screenplay by the Campions!Jane is great in this unusual territory 5 stars
12/06/99 Kay Greeeeeeeaaaaaat! 5 stars
12/05/99 MrShowbiz Jane Campion blows smoke with this muddled psychosexual satire. 3 stars
12/05/99 PurityJustBegs Kate, oh Kate.. thou art luminous.. 5 stars
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  03-Dec-1999 (R)


  26-Dec-1999 (MA)

Directed by
  Jane Campion

Written by
  Jane Campion
  Anna Campion

  Kate Winslet
  Harvey Keitel
  Pam Grier

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