Thank You for Smoking

Thank You for Smoking

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            Thank You for Smoking, directed by Jason Reitman and starring Aaron Eckhart as an ineffably charming tobacco lobbyist, is a bright and funny and breezy film with a fast pace and cute characters. Which is weird because it’s actually a penetrating social commentary about the moral quandaries swirling around the lies that Big Tobacco has been telling us for years, and, at its center, the adventures an ethically – let’s use the word “flexible” – man hired to make those lies sound good. Tobacco lobbyists, as we all know, rank somewhere between sea urchins and leeches on the evolutionary chart, so one would think a film about such a man would depict him in a slightly unflattering light: perhaps show him slumped over a bar, knocking back whiskey, talking about how he lost his kid in the recent divorce.

            Nick Naylor (Eckhart) did actually lose his kid (Cameron Bright) in the divorce, but still gets to take him on business trips, and still seems to impress the boy. The two of them have many merry misadventures including a visit to a smarmy movie producer (a terrific Rob Lowe), a cancerous Marlboro Man (Sam Elliott), and a julep-sucking tobacco baron (Robert Duvall). Naylor also has amusing discussions with the two other Lobbyists, a booze maven (Maria Bello) and a gun nut (David Koechner), and they seem to be in private competition as to who can kill the most people. Naloyr also has the chance to have some wild sex with a young reporter (tabloid fodder Katie Holmes). During the film, Naylor has a brush with death at the hands of anti-smoking crusaders, which, oddly doesn’t change him too much and he goes on to publicly confront an angry anti-smoking senator (William H. Macy) in the film’s finale.

            Naylor is, of course, an anti-hero, and the film naturally tries to elicit sympathy for him, and the extent to which it succeeds is a little unnerving. We feel sympathy for him, we laugh at the film’s antics. I left the theater feeling amused and entertained. Unfortunately, this cheer undercuts a good deal of the film’s satire. We almost forget that Naylor is a morally ambiguous man, and begin to buy into his philosophy that if a point is argued well enough, it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. Almost. There is still a satirical sting, it’s just slight. Director Reitman obviously wanted to give us the film’s Message subtly and without controversy. It’s not an incredibly daring maneuver, but one that is effective enough.


Note especially: there is actually no smoking in this film.

-March 17th, Fox Searchlight

Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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