The chief spokesperson and lobbyist Nick Naylor is the Vice President of the Academy of Tobacco Studies. He is talented in speaking and spins arguments to defend the cigarette industry in the most difficult situations. His best friends are Polly Bailey that works in the Moderation Council in alcohol business, and Bobby Jay Bliss of the gun business own advisory group SAFETY. They frequently meet each other in a bar and they self-title the M.O.D. Squad, a.k.a. Merchants of Death, disputing which industry has killed more people. Nick's greatest enemy is Vermont's Senator Ortolan Finistirre, who defends in the Senate the use of a skull and crossbones on cigarette packs. Nick's son Joey Naylor lives with his mother, and has the chance to know his father in a business trip. When the ambitious reporter Heather Holloway betrays Nick disclosing confidences he had in bed with her, his life turns upside-down. But Nick is good in what he does for the mortgage.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A witty satire that doesn't take sides on the smoking controversy.
A clever satire of the spin-world (thanks largely to its cast and a witty script by Jason Reitman), Thank You For Smoking comes on like Wag the Dog via The Insider it's a painfully honest insight into the tobacco industry, led by the narration of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), the Big Tobacco corporation's chief spokesman. His narcissistic self-infatuation ("Charles Manson kills people; I talk.") and sleazy tactics land him in trouble when he finds himself bribing a lung cancer victim in front of his pre-teen son, who is not yet old enough to smoke but is being influenced by his money-driven father.
Nick has a lot on his mind. He's got pressure from an anti-smoking Senator (played brilliantly by William H. Macy), his boss, his ex-wife, fanatical groups on homicidal missions, a double-crossing reporter (Katie Holmes) and a Hollywood producer (Rob Lowe) trying to cast the perfect Hollywood glamorization of smoking (Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones are offered as the leads).
The movie, directed by the son of Ivan Reitman (the "Ghosbusters" director/producer extraordinaire), balances absurdity with realism; moments of the film come across as poignant reflection while following scenes are completely the opposite. This balance is thrown off a bit sometimes David Koechner's portrayal of an NRA lobbyist is great but feels out of place, as if it belongs in a comedy in the vein of "Anchorman." And ultimately this uneven mix of the deadly serious (literally) with off-the-wall gags does catch up with the film; it eventually falls back upon its very strong script, which supports it (a lesser film might be affected more drastically with a weaker screenplay), but some scenes probably should have been toned down a bit to comply with the subtler and more realistic scenes. For what it's worth, the wacky scenes are extremely hilarious, but they seem to contradict other portions of the material.
Jason is a better director than his father, though, and shows a lot of potential here: I'd say the direction is almost deserving of a more serious film. I'd love to see what he could do with a drama in the future.
The movie also boasts an excellent lead performance by Aaron Eckhart, who oozes with sleaze, greed, corruption and a hidden sense of morals. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but he's not a stereotypical Hollywood motion picture "good guy" even the closing of the picture, without spoiling it, isn't the moralistic cop-out I had expected; the movie isn't a black-and-white painting of the smoking controversy; it doesn't take sides on either side of the debate.
This is really being marketed incorrectly as the next "40-Year-Old Virgin" right now, but the film for the most part, anyway really isn't as hilarious as it is thought-provoking and engaging. Apart from a few aforementioned moments of utter absurdity, the majority of the film's duration involves some pretty serious topics, and it handles them well. It's not a bust-your-gut-funny movie, and it's perhaps not as strong as some reviews would lead you to believe, but it's one of the better satires in recent memory and certainly one of the more effective since Wag the Dog.
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