Monday, April 30, 2018

Movie Review: "Thank You for Smoking" (2005)

Image Source
Director: Jason Reitman
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor spends his days advocating in favor of smoking, trying to repair his relationship with his son, and eating with other lobbyists for controversial industries, all while preparing to face off against an anti-smoking senator who hopes to put new visually graphic warning labels on cigarettes.
"If you argue correctly, you're never wrong." (Image Source)
It's interesting and ironic that, in a satire about a tobacco lobbyist defending the right to smoke, nobody lights up a cigarette in a 92-minute runtime. "Thank You for Smoking" is the feature film directorial debut for writer/director Jason Reitman, who would go on to direct movies like "Juno," "Up in the Air," and "Young Adult." It is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley. The story follows a tobacco lobbyist named Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), who is the public face of "big tobacco." He spends his time as an advocate for cigarettes on talk shows and news programs as he attempts to grease political wheels in order to give cancer sticks a good name. He spends his free time eating with other lobbyists, specifically those who represent alcohol (Maria Bello) and guns (David Koechner). Nick is also trying to navigate getting to a good place with his ex-wife (Kim Dickens) in order to improve his relationship with his son (Cameron Bright) while simultaneously trying to figure out how to be the best role model for him. Nick is about to have a showdown with the hyper-critical Senator Finistirre (William H. Macy) over a new warning label that the senator is trying to get put on all cigarette packages. In the romance department, Nick has been spending time with a reporter named Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes), who is doing a story on Finistirre's upcoming legislation and on Naylor himself. 
"I want to see where the devil sleeps. (Image Source)
It's a tough task to make someone who is an advocate for one of the deadliest legal products in the world a likable character. Luckily, Jason Reitman does a wonderful job achieving this, though it probably helps that Aaron Eckhart manages to make Nick Naylor such a charming (though undoubtedly smarmy) man. He radiates that certain charisma that we are all innately attracted to, despite the fact that he's shilling death sticks and rebuffing "cancer kids" as a 9-to-5. This film remains one of Eckhart's best performances (sorry "I, Frankenstein," there's just no competition). There are many good supporting performances in "Thank You for Smoking" as well, some performances from actors we completely forgot were in the movie, like J.K. Simmons, Robert Duvall, Maria Bello, David Koechner, and William H. Macy. There are even a few bit performances that stand out as well, from the likes of Sam Elliot (the former Marlboro Man), Rob Lowe (an L.A. agent with brass cojones and a penchant for bullshit), and Adam Brody (Lowe's overly friendly, overly obsessed, super clingy assistant).
"I've got a bachelor's degree in kickin' ass." (Image Source)
"Thank You for Smoking" uses satire and irony supremely well to generate many smartly insightful humorous moments that hold up well even today. We laugh on the regular each time we watch this film, though it is a more steady stream of small laughs rather big guffaws. We still enjoy this flick even though it is 13 years old. We like the overall themes of the movie, which are less about smoking and more about the personal freedom to choose what you want to do with your body, namely that you get the ultimate choice over what you want to put/snort/puff/ingest/eat/drink/inject into it. If one is aware of the risks and dangers involved in an activity and they still choose to participate in that activity, as long as they aren't harming anyone else, that is their right. There is also an interesting commentary about how dysfunctional our government can be and how there are still plenty of people who exploit a cause for personal gain.
"My job requires a certain moral flexibility." (Image Source)
"Thank You For Smoking" is full of caustic wit and razor-sharp satire. If you haven't seen this film, what the hell are you doing!? Watch it as soon as possible.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.6/10
RT Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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