19 September 2006 | Flagrant-Baronessa
A Nicotine Kick in satire and sarcasm
EDITED to omit reported 'spoilers'. And by spoilers I don't mean the "Bruce Willis is dead" type, but "Bruce Willis is bald" types. *sigh*
Some jobs are harder than others but Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), tobacco industry spokesman, handles his with effortless skill. Along with two other spokespeople for the alcohol- and firearms industry respectively, he is part of the self-appointed M.O.D. squad ("Merchants of Death") whose main objective is to talk. To BS. To spin. To confuse and convince their opponent, and charm their audience. A job of such nature naturally requires a certain moral flexibility, and with smooth-talk and sex appeal, it is apparent that Nick is incredibly gifted in this area.
He goes on TV-shows, verbally battles U.S. senators, deems the Cancer Research Foundation "arseholes" all the while trying to set an example for his 10-year-old son. This is naturally very difficult, doing what he does. So as Big Tobacco (for whom he is a lobbyist) launches a campaign to reinstate the "cool smoking" image into mainstream Hollywood, and sends Nick to work a producer for the proper product-placement, Nick decides to bring his son along for the ride, to see "how daddy works" in hopes to bond with him.
Good satires are hard to come by, but Reitman's "Thank You For Smoking" is so wet with sarcasm and dripping with humour that it is impossible not to enjoy. It navigates the fast-paced industry, the art of talking and spoofs the anti-smoking camp with their chiché "cancer-sick boy in a wheelchair" front (as seen in the opening scene of the film), and it explores the moral flexibility of Americans, without preaching too much in doing so. Only once does it fall prey to predictable moral messages, as when Nick starts reevaluating his work and has moral qualms following his kidnapping by an anti-smoking group, only to swoop down into tongue-and-cheek mode again and return twice as biting and twice as funny.
Although the film is evenly peppered with fun one-liners and perfect delivery from its cast, the best scene is when the M.O.D. squad are at their usual restaurant hang-out at the end of the day and brag to each other and argue over whose business kills the most people per year. Nick: "How many alcohol-related deaths per day? 100,000? That's what... 270 a day? Wow. 270 people, tragedy. Excuse me if I don't exactly see terrorists getting excited about kidnapping anyone from the alcohol-industry." Maria Bello who plays the detached, funny Moderate Spokeswoman for alcohol has great in-your-face aptitude and attitude, "That's stupid arguing." Aaron Eckhart is also hilarious throughout in a shady businessman way (I now have a major crush on him). Out of all the cast, only Nick's little kid Joe chokes on the well-written lines.
In fact, even the cinematography is well-crafted in the film... just the way a scene cuts to another deserves credit, opening with a rapid-fire ironic note. Speaking of which, "Thank You"'s opening montage of cigarette packages as credits is a stroke of genius on Reitman's part. So are the various casting choices the amount of respected actors that have been crammed into supporting roles in impressive (Robert Duvall, Sam Elliot, William H. Macy) and give rise to an almost familiar and "feel-good" tone in the film.
That said, I wouldn't call this "laugh-out-loud worthy" exactly and I didn't care for the ending but it is clear that a lot of thought has been put into Thank You For Smoking every line is a well-articulated kick up the arse to something and delivered by the bucket-load. A very enjoyable little satire.
8 out of 10