Holy Smoke (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Well, Dicaprio made a really bad movie after Titanic, so I guess his Big Boat co-star didn't want to be outdone. About all I have to say is that this is Jane Campion's worst movie. When you consider that The Piano is her best movie, and knock that down a few levels, you'll get the idea.
Winslet plays an intelligent Aussie from a dysfunctional and idiotic family. She goes searching for the meaning of life, and seems to have found it at an Indian Ashram. And you know they are enlightened there, because they sing along with Neil Diamond songs. Well, her Aussie family is worried about her, since they can't imagine her becoming part of any religion whose gods look like multi-headed monkeys. Instead, they want her to come back to a sensible religion whose gods look like stockbrokers. Natural enough.
Mum lures her back to Oz with a cockamamie story about her father dying, and when Winslet gets to the family homestead, they introduce her to a cult deprogrammer (Harvey Keitel) who intends to "exit" her from the clutches of the Upanishads. Keitel starts out as a thorough professional, and he knows his material. His grasp of religion and psychology, and his extensive experience with other women who have followed the same path, are capable of swamping Winslet, as she soon realizes. But she doesn't want to be swamped, so she does the only thing you can do when you can't win a game you want to win - she changes the rules.
Locked away with Keitel for three days, she changes the Jeopardy category from "knowledge of religion," which Keitel dominates, to "seduction," and this one she wins easily. She is a lush-bodied young woman, and Keitel is a geezer with dyed hair, tons of sexual insecurity and some not-so-suppressed misogyny. She seduces him, humiliates him about his age and his technique and his dick size and anything else she can dig up, and then deliberately leads him into ever more degrading activities, then finally discards him when he becomes emotionally dependent on her. He ends up broken, crawling through the outback in a dress and lipstick, begging her not to walk away.
In an epilogue, Winslet has not only returned to India, but has taken her mum with her! Keitel, on the other hand, has gone back to his girlfriend and they have had twins. But Winslet and Keitel admit to each other in postcards that there really was some special deep connection between them.
Holy smoke, was this a bad movie. Oh, bad, bad, bad. It is meant to be satire, I suppose. I guess it is supposed to be ironic that her idiotic and unhappy family would actually think happiness in an ashram could somehow be worse than what they have. It is supposed to be ironic that this woman who outsmarts the brilliant cult deprogrammer is suckered in by a moronically simplistic guru. It is supposed to be ironic that the controller loses all control and ends up whimpering in the desert. I think all of this is supposed to have some humor, or social satire, or something. Unfortunately, the Campion sisters (director/writer) have somewhat of a handicap in producing satire: they have no sense of humor. You know how in a comedy people will do things they would not normally do in life. When a bank teller gets a hold-up note in a comedy, he will correct the grammar. This is strange behavior, but we enjoy the absurdity because it is funny. Now take away the sense of humor and strange behavior is just strange and irrational. When Harvey Keitel crawls through the desert in a dress, holding on to Kate Winslet's sizeable leg, crying and begging, this is supposed to be funny, since he was supposed to have complete control in the relationship, and he was reduced to nothingness. But, of course, it isn't funny, so we are simply left with Harvey Keitel in a dress, whimpering.
In one scene, we are symbolically shown the emptiness of the family's life in Australia - everyone lives in nearly-identical houses. Funny stuff, eh? And plenty original.
Jane Campion has made three full-length films since The Piano, and their IMDb scores look like something out of Fred Olen Ray's filmography:
I agree with most of what Scoop said. It is not a very good film. The plot was full of holes, the acting was poor, the photography was dark, and the attempts at humor fell flat. I did find a very few things to like about it. It is the story of an Australian family who hires Harvey Keitel to deprogram their daughter, Kate Winslet, after she fell under the spell of an Indian Guru while on vacation.
Having read reviews before I watched it and therefore knowing that this was a bad film, I had low expectations, which allowed me to be as alert at the end as at the beginning. At the end of the film, a sun-baked Keitel is laying on the desert sand and sees Winslet as a six-armed Hindu Goddess in the distance. Incidentally, one of the good things about the film was some computer generated artistic effects, and this was one of them. Then there is an exchange of mail. Kate writes Keitel that she is back in India, has taken her mother, and is enlightened, or seeking enlightenment. She also comments that there was something real between her and Keitel. He responds that, after she left, Pam Grier forgave him, took him back, and he had twins and was working on his second book. He also hinted that he would leave it all for Winslet.
Based on this rather flimsy
evidence, I think the film asks us to examine why cults that we are
not members of (like Winslet's Baba cult) are more wrong than cults we
are members of (like Christianity). In fact, Winslet deprograms
Keitel, and they are both better for it. It is my feeling that the
humorous moments are there for comic relief, and do not indicate a
satire. While most of the humor didn't work for me, I did like using a
live sheep for a coffee table, and Keitel in drag is a hoot. Of
course, I may be giving the author too much credit. I still don't
understand the sequence of Kate's seduction of Keitel. She walks up to
him stark naked and asks him to kiss her. He refuses. Then she pees
down her leg, and he suddenly can't resist her.
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