Sunday, August 5, 2012

Thank You for Smoking: Movie Review


Arguing out of moral quandaries and into a place among classic satirical comedies.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) talks. He could argue why America is the best government in the world (igorning errors in syntax) even if they sound like arguments for why it isn't. What he does is spin smoking cigarettes into a good thing. He's the spokesperson for Big Tobacco and he doesn't have to convince you that smoking is good for you, he just has to convince you that it's not not good for you. 2005

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Screenplay by: Jason Reitman

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright and J.K. Simmons

“Thank You for Smoking” is a satirical comedy that is as funny as it is true. We follow Nick as he goes through the political and cultural centres of the country, seeing what he does for a living. He's passionate about what he does mostly because he likes talking. But when a certain, pretty, young reporter comes knocking he's ready to say that he does it to pay the mortgage. “Perhaps the world would be a better place if everybody rented.”

Nick, of course, does both. He pays the mortgage on the house that his son, his ex-wife and her new boyfriend live in, and then he rents his own apartment. As attractive as Eckhart is, and as smart and funny as his character is, it's not surprising that he's single. After one too many arguments turned into negotiations, I would be out the door too.

But the film isn't just about Nick, it's about his relationship with his son and how that affects him and his job. Things said and done to a certain, pretty, young reporter also affect his job. The certain, pretty, young reporter is played by Katie Holmes and she is just one of many supporting characters who turn in hilarious performances. Nick's best friends are Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner), an advocate for guns, and Polly Bailey (Maria Bello), an “alcohol is good for you” spokesperson. Together they are the Merchants of Death, the MOD Squad.

J.K. Simmons plays his boss, and Robert Duvall plays The Captain, and Sam Elliot plays a cowboy (and remember, cowboys don't like bribes). You probably couldn't find better casting. The funniest roles have William H. Macy as a Senator from the fine state of Vermont who always finds himself defending cheese rather than bringing down cigarettes; Rob Lowe as a Hollywood agent who's better at his job than Nick is at his; Adam Brody also seems to talk for a living but in a much different way than our “hero”.

One of the main reasons “Thank You for Smoking” is a success is because of the screenplay by Jason Reitman, based on the novel by Christopher Buckley. It's smart and funny; two qualities severely lacking in most comedies. When you're not laughing out loud at the moral quandaries that Nick talks his way out of, you're probably learning a trick or two to use in debate class.