Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, William H. Macy, David Koechner
Christopher Buckley, Jason Reitman
"Thank You for Smoking" Review
If you argue correctly, you're never wrong...
This statement, provided as fatherly advice, is the mind, heart and sould of "Thank You for Smoking," a film adaptation of Christopher Buckley's novel in the feature film debut of writer/director Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman.
Starring Aaron Eckhart in a role that should make Neil LaBute proud, "Thank You for Smoking" is a hilarious, insightful, honest and endearing film centered around Nick Naylor (Eckhart), an attractive, divorced lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies who loves his son (the stellar Cameron Bright), gets along with his ex-wife (Kim Dickens) and has only two real friends, Polly ( pitch-perfect Maria Bello) and Bobby Jay (David Koechner). Together, the three friends compromise the "M.O.D. Squad," Merchants of Death as they all three lobby for industries now deemed evil in today's American culture.
As Naylor, Eckhart offers his best performance since LaBute's "In the Company of Men." Essentially a "spin doctor," Eckhart's Naylor is a deeply fleshed out man with flexible morals who is as comfortable chilling out with his son as he is defending the tobacco industry on television.
It is the scenes involving Naylor's gift for gab that give "Thank You for Smoking" its sparkly cutting edge. Even the most devout anti-smoker has to watch him shred Ron Goode (a marvelous Todd Louiso), a representative of Vermont Senator Finistirre (William H. Macy) on the Joan Lunden show by turning the tables on 15-year-old "Cancer Boy," a young man who Naylor announces the tobacco industry would be better off "keeping him alive and smoking."
A scene involving former Marlboro Man Lorne Lutch (Sam Elliott) is the perfect blend of satire and sincerity as Eckhart's Naylor remains constantly aware of human nature and his paternal responsibilities to his accompanying son.
Clearly, Ivan's son has been able to tap into star power in fleshing out even the supporting roles in "Thank You for Smoking." From the tobacco industry's captain (Robert Duvall) to a Zen-spouting Hollywood super-agent (Rob Lowe), "Thank You for Smoking" is literally filled to the filtered tip with actors and actresses who "get" the source material and exude the perfect amount of humanity and hilarity.
The film's only weak note in the acting department comes from Katie Holmes, who offers a slight variation of her "Batman Begins" reporter. "Thank You for Smoking" commanded a reporter capable of greater emotional variance. Too often, her one and a half note performance is drowned out by the symphony that surrounds her. Holmes does, however, deserve a kudo for her closing look upon getting her comeuppance. Holmes looks at the camera in such a way that one can't help but see this sexy, young reporter who thought she'd gotten her major break only to get knocked down a few notches.
It would be easy to say that "Thank You for Smoking" is deeply convicting of the tobacco industry. In reality, it seems more deeply convicting of an American culture built around the mega-industry of lobbying that has resulted in a corporate and political avalanche of corrupt morality.
In a world of cookie-cutter comedies, "Thank You for Smoking" is a breath of fresh air. Cigarettes may not save your life, but "Thank You for Smoking" sure adds life to a film industry desperately in need of an original vision.