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Overall Rating
3.77

Awesome: 31.68%
Worth A Look42.57%
Average: 7.92%
Pretty Bad: 6.93%
Total Crap: 10.89%

11 reviews, 35 user ratings


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Thank You for Smoking
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Spinderella liberty"
4 stars

Thank You for Smoking is a satire on the modern spin industry. In an age where everyone knows smoking can kill you, it asks: what type of person would become a spokesperson for cigarettes, why would they do it, and how could they get away with it?

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is Vice President of the Academy of Tobacco Studies, a puffed-up title for an organisation that funnels tobacco money into bogus studies de-emphasising the health risks of smoking. Naylor is smooth, personable, bright – the “Colonel Sanders of nicotine” to his friends, a “yuppie Mephistopheles” to his enemies. He’s an ideal candidate for the public face of an impossible cause. As the sole pro-tobacco panelist on the Joan Lunden talk show, he even manages to charm a 15-year old with cancer. (He tells his son that being a lobbyist requires “moral flexibility”.)

There’s not much of a plot; Thank You for Smoking is more a string of events. We see Naylor hang out with his fellow “Merchants of Death” (the MOD squad, get it?): spokespeople for the equally besieged-but-profitable alcohol and firearm industries (Maria Bello and David Koechner). In an attempt to boost cigarette sales and get tobacco off the defensive, Naylor approaches a Hollywood super-agent (Rob Lowe) about getting more glamorous stars to light up on screen. His idea elicits praise from the self-styled Captain of the tobacco industry (Robert Duvall), who flies Naylor by private jet to visit him in North Carolina. Meanwhile, a puritanical Senator from Vermont (William H. Macy) is campaigning to have a skull and crossbones added to cigarette packets and Naylor is fielding death threats during a live-to-air TV spot.

First-time writer-director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman) is adapting a 1994 novel by Christopher Buckley. He makes some improvements – notably cutting down some labyrinthine sub-plotting revolving around Naylor’s kidnapping by anti-smoking extremists. But he doesn’t fill in the gaps, leaving us wondering about the ultimate identity and fate of his kidnappers.

The book’s comedy is sharper and blacker. Reitman has diluted it by expanding the role of Naylor’s teenage son, Joey (Cameron Bright from Birth and X-Men 3). Bright’s an accomplished, spookily adult performer, but his symbolic presence as his dad’s conscience can’t help but weigh down the movie. Does Reitman think Naylor will fool us into believing his shtick if we don’t see his son following him around like a shadow? It also sets the movie up for a sentimental finish, in a story where even a little sentiment sticks out as too much. (It blackens the promise of Jason Reitman’s future career if this is some kind of tribute to his father, who dragged him around Hollywood movie sets as a youngster.)

Otherwise, Reitman sells the material with a light, poppy touch. Thank You for Smoking is slick and snappily paced, rather like a personal encounter with Naylor. He elicits a pitch-perfect, irresistible lead performance from Eckhart, with his winning smile and genuinely happy-to-be-here look. One of the movie’s themes is why Naylor would do the work he does. The answers range from paying the mortgage to relishing a challenge. The movie finally settles on “everyone has a talent” for its justification, and it wouldn’t wash if Eckhart’s skills as an actor weren’t up to the job.

A gallery of accomplished character actors lends colourful support. Besides those mentioned above, Adam Brody (The O.C.) is a scream as Rob Lowe’s sycophantic Hollywood assistant and Katie Holmes is spot-on as a sleazy little-girl journalist. I was only disappointed by Duvall, whose concern to humanise the Captain all but stripped him of his Southern eccentricity.

Reitman’s strangest decision, under the guise of misplaced “irony” no doubt, was to have no characters smoke during the movie. Since movies – and particularly American independent movies – are one of the last bastions of uninhibited smoking, it’s a bizarre choice. It also cripples any efforts at realism. Besides, we’ve already seen Eckhart smoke his way through films like In the Company of Men, so it seems plain perverse to relegate Naylor’s smoking habit off-screen (especially when it has a part to play in the plot). As a result, how you can take the movie’s protests about so-called political correctness seriously?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12768&reviewer=104
originally posted: 08/12/06 16:45:48
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/29/10 Simon Solid film,tho Reitman's direction/script too deliberate/cutesy at times, there's potential 4 stars
5/22/09 Jeff Wilder Not as biting as it could be. But works better as a satire than pap like American Dreamz, 4 stars
6/18/08 PAUL SHORTT AIMS AT ALL THE TARGETS AND HITS NONE OF THEM 1 stars
4/20/08 art AN EXCELLENT SATIRE 4 stars
10/18/07 Jake H laughed all the way through it 5 stars
10/04/07 The Film Maker You're welcome! 3 stars
7/15/07 Bitchflaps Not all that funny, and pretty lightweight stuff for the "biting satire" it was hyped to be 2 stars
7/01/07 LC3 A humorous look at the criminal language of control on all fronts. A must see! 5 stars
6/08/07 Black Smoke A quality satire about the stupidity of current society 4 stars
5/20/07 Vann Helms Embarrassing plot; no one ever smokes 1 stars
4/02/07 fools♫gold high-handed, high-hearted, and highbrowed 5 stars
1/31/07 Albert Stone Hillarious stuff, great satire. I loved it. 5 stars
12/03/06 Monday Morning One of the smartest satires I've ever seen. Hilarious, too. 5 stars
10/25/06 Drew G Aaron Eckharts best film yet 4 stars
10/15/06 Phil M. Aficionado Absolutely the right tone and look and mood; terrific and meaningful satire. 4 stars
10/07/06 jwil best satire in years; disregard the one star comments 5 stars
8/26/06 michael dont let the title scare you away 4 stars
8/25/06 helen bradley very slow slow paced poor scritping boring boring 1 stars
7/07/06 pym Very funny, wonerfully sarcastic, great message: freedom of personal choice. 5 stars
5/22/06 Denise Bauman I enjoyed it. 4 stars
5/11/06 Joel Hoffman Very funny and quick witted. Never a dull moment. I really enjoyed this movie. 4 stars
5/06/06 luke funny, smart. very good film. 5 stars
4/28/06 Jen Wilson Not bad... not sure I would see it again, though 3 stars
4/23/06 Mase Everything you can ask for, from a smart political movie with a topnotch cast. 5 stars
4/22/06 Ryan well cast, light but thoughtful humor 4 stars
4/22/06 Suzz As funny as lung cancer; boring; poorly written; does well by nutcase conservatives 1 stars
4/19/06 Annie G A fascinating look at lobbyists. Funny and thoughtful. 4 stars
4/17/06 Agent Sands Any movie that makes the bad guy look good to the point where it's funny; that's a movie!!! 5 stars
3/30/06 Marco Pole Tired witless banter... Why is it getting attention? Director is Son of Ivan Reitman.. 1 stars
3/28/06 Danny Johanson A great satire! 5 stars
3/12/06 Jack Absolutely amazing. Just saw a screening at the USCAF 5 stars
9/17/05 jim A must see! An excellent film. 5 stars
9/13/05 Alex Brisbourne Excellent script, engagingly constructed 4 stars
9/12/05 Trish Great Movie - saw at TO International Film Fest 4 stars
9/11/05 A Hayes Brilliant 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 03-Oct-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Aug-2006


Directed by
  Jason Reitman

Written by
  Jason Reitman

Cast
  Aaron Eckhart
  Maria Bello
  Sam Elliott
  Katie Holmes
  William H. Macy
  Rob Lowe



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