Thank You for Smoking
Like a breath of fresh air, Thank You for Smoking takes an unapologetic and satirical swipe at the establishment; no one is left unscathed. But make no mistake. Smoking isn't about cigarettes; it's about the choices we make in life.
Based on the novel by Christopher Buckley, this film is about the art of the spin--and Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is one of the best spin doctors around. As a spokesman for Big Tobacco, he turns his mega-watt smile on the public and tells them all human beings have rights, even smokers. And if they want to light up, it is their prerogative. Naturally, Nick has many enemies, especially opportunistic senator Ortolan Finistirre (William H. Macy). But in the end, Nick twirls around like a ballerina and comes out smelling like a rose, impressing not only the tobacco's head honcho (Robert Duvall) but a Washington investigative reporter (Katie Holmes) doing a piece on Nick. Then something suddenly happens and Nick's own reputation is on the line. With increased scrutiny on his son (Cameron Bright), Nick has to take a step back to examine what it is he's doing. Enough to change his evil ways and shun tobacco forever? Oh hell no. There is no right or wrong in Smoking--just a few lessons learned.
Besides a few juicy supporting parts, Eckhart hasn't been given a chance to shine since his brilliant debut in In the Company of Men--until now. His performance as Nick Naylor is a tour de force, full of charm, bravado and, yes, even thoughtfulness. He really does convince you his job is needed to maintain balance. The rest of the cast also does a fabulous job, conveying their own perspectives. Duvall is aptly crusty as the Southern tobacco baron; Holmes uses morally questionable ethics as the reporter; Macy is indignant and blustery as the senator; Rob Lowe plays an entertainment power broker who orchestrates more smoking in films. Even Bright (Running Scared), who gets to be a normal kid this time round, is a son who loves his father unconditionally. There's also the hilarious "Mod Squad"--a trio of lobbyists comprised of Nick, Maria Bello, a rep for the alcohol industry, and David Koechner, a rep for the NRA--who get together once or twice a week to bitch about their jobs. Classic.
Writer/director Jason Reitman can now join the annals of filmmakers who hit it out of the park their first time up to bat. And it's obvious growing up as the son of director Ivan Reitman has taught him a thing or two. Working with the author Buckley (the son of William F. Buckley) closely, Reitman crafts a cleverly written script--ripe with speeches actors just love to sink their teeth into--and puts it into a colorful yet deeply sardonic package that keeps you smiling the whole time. Thank You for Smoking is refreshing in its attitudes toward our neo-puritanical society but also slams liberal conventions as well. In other words, the film doesn't take sides. What Nick says in the film makes absolute sense, if you step out of your "But smoking kills!" bubble and just listen to him. His whole spin is that every person on this planet knows cigarettes are bad for them. So is eating McDonald's every day or drinking ten cups of coffee. The thing is, we make choices in life, be it bad or good. So, there's no point in having someone tell you something bad when you already know it. Get it?
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.