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Overall Rating

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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by William Goss

"Witty Persuasion"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: “If you argue correctly, then you’re never wrong.” Big Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor works and lives by this philosophy, relying on his ability to twist the truth in his favor, whether he is convincing a talk show audience that his industry wants to cancer patients to live (and keep puffing away), browbeating a young girl while speaking to his son’s class, or arguing to Congress that Vermont cheddar cheese is just as deadly as the cigarettes he sells. However, 'Thank You For Smoking' isn’t so much about smoking as it is about the endless spin cycle that politicians, journalists, agents, and lobbyists use to fulfill their various agendas, and writer/director Jason Reitman manages to shamelessly satirize each of its many perpetrators to superb effect.

Each and every cast member hits their notes perfectly, from Maria Bello and David Koechner as fellow lobbyists (for alcohol and firearms, respectively) to Rob Lowe’s amusing appearance as a top Hollywood agent that Naylor taps to put his product back into movies and “the sex back into cigarettes.” (Adam Brody also does a fine job in his brief role as Lowe’s assistant.) As Nick’s impressionable son, Joey, young Cameron Bright is finally beginning to act his age, which very much works in his favor as he decides to show some interest in his father’s job and pick up some serious debating tactics along the way, and Sam Elliott brings the right amount of gruff hostility towards Naylor, who arrives with a financial understanding in an effort to buy some silence from the dying spokesman. Robert Duvall tries to provide a sort of father figure as the tobacco czar keen on Naylor’s ideas, and Katie Holmes does a suitable job as the reporter looking to get her scoop by any means necessary.

No matter how good the supporting cast and script may be, the burden lies on the shoulders of Aaron Eckhart, who brings Naylor to life with just the right blend of sarcasm, arrogance, and a sense of ethical elasticity. Though it may feel like a variation of a role Eckhart has done before (particularly In The Company of Men), he has his cockiness honed in so fine that the viewer has no choice but to surrender to such a scheming schmuck, because he has pretty much earned it, personal integrity aside. While Naylor might not make the perfect antihero, audiences are less likely to support the agenda of Vermont Senator Finistirre (William H. Macy), whose intent to slap a gaudy poison warning on cigarettes and simultaneously earn some re-election support is frequently foiled by Naylor’s rather effective spin campaign.

Adapting Christopher Buckley’s 1994 novel, Reitman still keeps the material fresh over a decade later, yet manages to avoid dating himself for years to come. Although it’s hard to imagine any other ensemble pulling off the zingers with the same zest, most of the bite comes from the dialogue itself, which is equal in confidence as his direction. (It should be noted that, although nicotine does turn out to be life-saving at one point, not a single character actually smokes on screen.) One can also take comfort that Reitman never pulls any punches when lesser filmmakers would opt out with cheap conscience and resort to a false sense of last-reel redemption. The film does sag slightly before the climax, where it returns the humor to its aptly caustic level. Characters with such disregard for typical ethics or values would not, and do not, change their wicked ways overnight, which brings a refreshing consistency to their behavior throughout.

Last year’s 'Lord of War' also asked viewers to sympathize with an lead character with morals flexible enough for him to make a living as a merchant of death. Even though Nicolas Cage could certainly deliver droll dialogue, he lacked the smarmy, snarky persona that only Eckhart so effortlessly embodies, and frankly, a lot of it does have to do with his looks: that hair, that chin, those eyes, and that smile, all of which lend to him a certain arrogant charm that very few other actors can pull off. Eckhart’s grin of spin, combined with the gift of gab, ultimately allows for him (and Reitman consequently) to blow smoke wherever they damn well please. It’s cool, available, and addictive, but beware: satire this sharp may be habit-forming.

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originally posted: 04/05/06 20:38:27
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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
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
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  17-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 03-Oct-2006



Directed by
  Jason Reitman

Written by
  Jason Reitman

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

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