THANK YOU FOR SMOKING
Divorced, with a 12 year old son, Joey (Cameron Bright), Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) works for the lobby funded by major tobacco companies and is very successful at it. But he barely survives when he spills his guts to Washington Probe journalist Heather (Katie Holmes) when she beds him. He's trying to have a Hollywood agent (Rob Lowe) arrange for stars to smoke in a new blockbuster and he's at loggerheads with Vermont Senator Ortolan K. Finistirre (William H. Macy), who is trying to get a bill passed that will require cigarette packs to carry a skull & crossbones with the word Poison in big letters. At the Senate hearings, Joey comes along to watch his dad spin himself out of trouble and confound the Senators. Joey also goes with dad - accompanied by a case of cash from 'bacco boss, The Captain (Robert Duvall) - on a special trip to visit the Marlborough Man (Sam Elliott), who's just been diagnosed with lung cancer and they hope the cash will shut him up.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Whatever the merits of Christopher Buckley's novel may be, the material that ends up in this often hilarious film twangs with observation; and no wonder, Buckley senior was a political commentator, and his son was clearly taking notes. The premise of the satire is to take the worst possible subject that a spin doctor can be hired to work on and show him succeed - even as we wither from the embarrassment of rooting for him against the forces of good. This film does that and more.
We are along for cosy little dinners with the MOD squad (Merchants Of Death, the acquired appellation they blackly joke about), the triumvirate of Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) plus fellow spin doctors from the alcohol (Maria Bello) and firearms industries (David Koechner), providing some of the darkest cracks in the film. Some, but not all; there are many of those throughout and the screenplay likes to score surprise goals in any direction, not just for one editorial team. After all, as we discover, most of the people are just doing their job - working to pay the mortgage. 'Just doing my job' in civilian life becoming the equivalent of 'just obeying orders' in the Nazi ranks, say.
The writer's intelligence is evident throughout, and Reitman's adaptation stays focused on the characters of the main story. Aaron Eckhart delivers a sly and funny but always real Nick Naylor, trying to find a path between enjoying his job and his son's moral interest. He lets the script do the work, as do the great supporting cast, from J.K. Simmons as his big-mouth immediate superior, to Katie Holmes as Heather Holloway, the Washington Probe reporter who'll do anything - and anyone - for a story.
Hilariously self mocking as the head of E.G.O. showbiz agency, Rob Lowe is given a couple of great scenes, and William H. Macy channels a comedic Senator Finisterre on a collision course with Naylor.
The film sustains its pace, its sharp tone and its often subversive humour, along with its underbelly of satirically presented truths. You'll want to see it again.
Review by Louise Keller:
An acerbically funny satire, Thank You For Smoking offers no filters as it mercilessly puffs out moral controversy and political incorrectness. It's fast, witty and sharp, as the film lobbies for personal choice, hitting bulls-eyes in the underbellies of industries under political fire. Writer/director Jason Reitman adapts Christopher Buckley's highly charged novel with glee. The mood is infectious, the laughs non-stop and nothing is off limits.
If you argue correctly, you're never wrong says Aaron Eckhart's smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor. Naylor is the Colonel Sanders of nicotine; the Sultan of Spin who is the man who probably put the letter U in U-Turn. How Eckhart manages to make Naylor irresistible, is nothing short of miraculous. Urbane and charming, it is probably his blatant honesty that makes us warm to him. From television debates about heavy hitting moral issues to things as simple as debating with his son which ice cream flavour is best, Naylor has the gift of the gab. This is what he does to pay the mortgage, and it is the best role that has come Eckhart's way since he made us squirm in Neil LaBute's In The Company of Men.
Naylor's like-minded friends - his counterparts in the alcohol and gun industries- call themselves M.O.D. (Merchants of Death). David Koechner's Bobby Jay who talks up firearms and Maria Bello's Polly, who allegedly 'got the Pope to endorse red wine' meet every week to compare notes (or deaths, to be more precise). William H. Macy is the anti-smoke campaigning Senator from Vermont who goes from accuser to defender when the debate inexplicably switches from tobacco to cheese. The movie industry is also a target, and Rob Lowe makes a wonderful Hollywood executive, garbed in an ornate kimono. Cameron Bright (Birth) also does a fine job as Eckhart's impressionable son. The only disappointment in the otherwise outstanding cast is Katie Holmes' ambitious journalist who is neither tough enough or convincing enough, to carry the pivotal role to smear Naylor's credibility.
You may feel guilty for laughing, but it won't spoil your enjoyment of this smouldering film that never cops out for a second.
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THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (M)
CAST: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott, Katie Holmes, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, J. K. Simmons, Robert Duvall, Kim Dickens, Connie Ray, Todd Louiso
PRODUCER: David O. Sacks
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
SCRIPT: Jason Reitman (novel by Christopher Buckley)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: James Whitaker
EDITOR: Dana E. Glauberman
MUSIC: Rolfe Kent
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Steve Saklad
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 24, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: January 11, 2007