Holy Smoke

on December 03, 1999 by Annlee Ellingson
One can appreciate Kate Winslet's determination to return to her art-house roots post-"Titanic," but even Leonardo DiCaprio accepted $20 million to appear in "The Beach" next spring. Quit torturing yourself (and us) already, Ms. Winslet.
   Winslet plays a free spirit, Ruth, who lights off to India (not unlike her free-spirited "Hideous Kinky" character who lighted off to Marrakech). She is drawn to the hippie atmosphere of a questionable cult led by a compelling Hindu guru and refuses to return home to her family in Australia. Mum and Dad hire cult buster P.J. Waters (Harvey Keitel) to talk some sense into her, but their plan backfires when their daughter seduces the seasoned counselor.
   It becomes apparent as their May-December relationship develops that both Ruth and P.J. are a bit wacko. The gesture that first brings the couple together is Ruth urinating on herself, and the film climaxes with him running around the Australian outback in a red minidress. Their consummation is beyond belief to begin with, and their relationship only grows progressively stranger.
   Meanwhile, Ruth's family, with the exception of her Mum, who really is just trying to do the right thing, is a bunch of raucous hicks, thoughtlessly interrupting her intense three-day therapy to take her to a party, where she gets smashed and narrowly escapes a rape while her brother's wife does her best to get into P.J.'s pants.
   "Holy Smoke's" saving grace is its pure physical beauty. Winslet is luminous, shining with the sweaty skin of a teenager with too much energy to burn, particularly when framed by the rustic country's blue skies and golden landscape. Starring Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel. Directed by Jane Campion. Written by Anna Campion and Jane Campion. Produced by Jan Chapman. A Miramax release. Drama. Rated R for sexuality and language. Running time: 114 min
Tags: Starring Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel, Directed by Jane Campion, Written by Anna Campion, Jane Campion, Produced by Jan Chapman, Miramax, Drama

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