Thank You for Smoking is a razor-sharp piece of satire from writer/director Jason Reitman that starts off funny, biting, and clever, and never loses a beat. Aaron Eckhart stars in this adaption of a Christopher Buckley novel as Nick Naylor, the Vice President and chief spokesperson for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, and he is basically the blueprint of what they are looking for. Here is a man not concerned with morals, values, or ethics, but rather the plain beauty of argument. 

Nick has a complex relationship with the public to say the least. The film's opening scene starts off as Nick is being booed at relentlessly by the television crowd as he sits next to a teenage boy dying of cancer, and it ends with Mr. Naylor drawing cheers and laughs as he makes a fool out of a representative of Senator Ortolan Finistirre of
Vermont (William H. Macy). 

Nick's private life is also of much interest. Once a week, he meets with the "Merchants of Death" -- Polly Bailey (Maria Bello) and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner) -- to discuss each other's death totals. Neither Polly's alcohol nor Jay's firearms industry can match the death total of Nick's tobacco. And he seems to take great pride in that. 

He is also divorced from his wife, but that doesn't stop him from influencing his son, Joey (Cameron Bright). In fact, when Nick is encouraged by his bosses BR (J.K. Simmons) and “The Captain” (Robert Duvall) to take a trip to
California, Joey uses his newly-learned persuasive skills to convince his mother to let him go with. 

Once in
California, Nick's main purpose is to meet with Hollywood superagent Jeff Megall (Rob Lowe) to discuss bringing cigarettes back into the movies. Nick's thought process is that once cigarettes are back in the hands of Catherine Zeta Jones and Brad Pitt, they will be irresistible once again.  

On top of all this, Nick is engaging in an affair with a reporter named Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes), while people like Senator Finistirre are losing sleep over how to bring this guy down. It’s hard to believe how far Nick can push his luck and not have a single thing happen to him.

Aaron Eckhart really is a pleasure in this film. Reitman's script is so sharp, so smart --satirically brilliant even -- and the way Eckhart delivers the material is priceless. Every scene is smarter and cleverer than the one before it, and as a result, the film never drags. 

The interesting thing about this film and Reitman's script is that it could have been about anything. I got the feeling that the smoking issue was secondary, while argument and persuasion were the primary topics at hand. It's very easy to be entranced and motivated by what Naylor says, and I think that's the point. No matter what the circumstances -- whether you're defending tobacco or alcohol or firearms -- anyone can be a persuasive speaker. 

The way Reitman and Echkart play mercilessly with language and rhetorical techniques makes Thank You for Smoking one of the most enjoyable and original films of 2006. Add this film to 2007's Juno and 2009's much-hyped Up in the Air, and it's quite clear that Jason Reitman is one of the best and most consistent directors working today. 

7 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

this was quite and enjoyable film. i preferred it to reiteman's juno.

Danny King said...

@ Andrew: I think it's interesting to compare the two because Reitman wrote this film while Diablo Cody wrote Juno. I actually preferred Reitman's dialogue in Thank You for Smoking to Cody's, but Juno had much more of an emotional impact on me.

Anonymous said...

This is a sharp and witty, as well as provacative, comedy. Definitely love Eckhart in this one.

CMrok93 said...

Very funny, but also brings upp some good points of advertising.

Danny King said...

@ CMrok93: I definitely agree. The film doesn't shy away from the strategies of advertising, it addresses them head on and is surprisingly informative and convincing.

Information Review said...

The movie never gets preachy on the issue of cigarettes to where it takes a side. The real message here is to educate people and let them decide for themselves, and to think for yourself. I'm not a smoker, but all I can say is, whether you agree or disagree with smoking laws, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying this.

Danny King said...

@ Information Review: I couldn't say it any better.

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