Movie Review -- Thank You For Smoking
Thank You For Smoking is a hilarious satire that centers around the tobacco industry in this country. Nick Naylor (played by Golden Globe nominee Aaron Eckhart) is a tobacco lobbyist who is one of the most loathed men in America. He holds the seemingly-impossible position of getting new smokers in a world that is tobacco (and tobacco lobbyist) intolerant. But Naylor revels in his position, and his latest job seems to be getting his son to realize why what he does is so important.
This is a tough story to pull off. But it works by making all sides both likeable (and understandable) and loathesome. The movie doesn't take sides (though I will point out that not one cigarette was smoked during the film). Even the anti-tobacco parties -- headed by the always delightful William H. Macy as a Vermont Senator -- come across as full of lies and deception. It isn't a film that is anti- or pro-tobacco as much as it is a film that raises issues about freedom, choice, and personal responsibility; the subject of smoking isn't as important as the larger issues surrounding the debate. Through wit and politically-incorrect dialogue, we realize how all sides manipulate language and images to "sell" their message; we realize how the public is duped by these messages rather than being encouraged to make their own informed decisions. Naylor, as he attempts to raise his son to be a free-thinker, calls to question the self-righteousness that often surrounds politically-correct rhetoric, and his sometimes-surprising logic makes his arguments more powerful. His meetings with the M.O.D. Squad (that would be "Merchants of Death" -- representatives from the tobacco, alcohol, and firearms industries) are hilarious, and throughout the movie I found myself literally laughing out loud (and it take a lot to make me do so).
The cast all-around works (though I'm on the fence about Katie "a.k.a.: Kate Cruise" Holmes as a seductive reporter) but Aaron Eckhart definitely carries the film from start to finish. Doubtful that he'll win an Oscar (or even get a nomination for this; the meaning will sail over too many people's heads!) but it's a great performance nonetheless.
Four stars! An excellent holiday rental!