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1 item from 2005

Thank You for Smoking

12 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Thank You for Smoking, a satire about a D.C. lobbyist for Big Tobacco, takes pot shots at just about everything and everybody -- tobacco, guns, liquor, liberals, red-necks, anti- and pro-smoking advocates and self-serving politicians.

It's really about the Age of Spin, where with the right TV spokesperson even Adolph Hitler might come off as a misunderstood individual. If there is a problem with the feature debut of Jason Reitman, it's that the tone and tenor of the movie is far removed from the real world of a D.C. lobbyist. Put it this way: How many times do you suppose MPAA's Jack Valenti got kidnapped during his tenure in Washington?

The movie is amusing and clever but only skin deep. It lacks the acidity and rage of a satire such as Network. While often entertaining, the film keeps hitting the same comic notes. Smoking will find its audiences in upscale and university venues, although it may founder in, say, North Carolina.

Reitman's script, which derives from Christopher Buckley's 1994 novel, delves into the world of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), a superb practitioner of spin. And what greater challenge than to lobby for the cigarette industry, which kills upward to 1,200 Americans daily? One of the movie's grand touches is frequent lunch sessions Nick has with fellow lobbyists, who speak on behalf of alcohol (Maria Bello) and guns (David Koechner). The group dubs itself the MOD Squad, as in Merchants of Death.

David is divorced from his wife Jill (Kim Dickens) and too often absent from the life of his 12-year-old son Joey Cameron Bright). When Nick takes a keener interest in Joey, especially on a trip to Hollywood, the two begin to bond over their discussions of strategies for making effective arguments in any debate. As Nick tells his son, "If you argue correctly, you're never wrong."

This is the one area where the movie feels real as the father presents his job in a way that makes sense to the boy. The rest of the movie indulges in implausible subplots involving a newspaper reporter (Katie Holmes), who uses sex to get a scoop; a kidnapping in which Nick receives an overdose of nicotine; a Godfather of Tobacco (Robert Duvall) with a dumb ticker; a Vermont senator (William H. Macy), who never has a snappy answer for opponents; and a Hollywood superagent (Rob Lowe), a transparent dig at former agent Mike Ovitz.

Under Reitman's direction, the acting is energetic and scenes flow smoothly and swiftly. Eckhart and Bright are convincing in their father and son roles, but most of the other actors fall back on caricatures, albeit pretty deadly ones. Sam Elliott has a solid sequence as a Marlboro Man dying of cancer.

Jams Whitaker's cinematography and Dana E. Glauberman's editing are sharp while the sound track makes clever use of vintage songs about smoking.


Room 9 Entertainment presents a David Sacks production in association with Content Film


Writer/director: Jason Reitman

Based on the novel by: Christopher Buckley

Producer: David O. Sacks

Executive producers: Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Max Levchin, Mark Woolway, Edward R. Pressman, John Schmidt, Alessandro Camon, Michael Beugg

Director of photography: James Whitaker

Production designer: Steve Saklad

Costumes: Danny Glicker

Music: Rolfe Kent

Editor: Dana E. Glauberman


Nick Naylor: Aaron Eckhart

Polly Bailey: Maria Bello

Joey: Cameron Bright

Jack: Sam Elliott

Heather: Katie Holmes

Bobby Jay Bliss: David Koechner

Jeff Megall: Rob Lowe

Sen. Finistirre: William H. Macy

BR: J.K. Simmons

Captain: Robert Duvall

Running time -- 92 minutes

No MPAA rating


Buena Vista Pictures

Touchstone Pictures and Hyde Park Entertainment present

An Ashok Amritraj production


Director: Anand Tucker

Screenwriter: Steve Martin

Producers: Ashok Amritraj, Jon Jashni, Steve Martin

Executive producer: Andrew Sugarman

Director of photography: Peter Suschitzky

Production designer: William Arnold

Editor: David Gamble

Costume designer: Nancy Steiner

Music: Barrington Pheloung


Ray Porter: Steve Martin

Mirabelle Buttersfield: Claire Danes

Jeremy: Jason Schwartzman

Lisa Cramer: Bridgette Wilson-Sampras

Catherine Buttersfield: Frances Conroy

Dan Buttersfield: Sam Bottoms

Christie Richards: Rebecca Pidgeon

MPAA rating R

Running time -- 106 minutes »

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