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  Publicity Stills of "Thank you for smoking"
(Courtesy from 20th Century Fox)

Genre: Comedy
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott, Katie Holmes, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, Robert Duvall
RunTime: 1 hr 32 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: M18 (Sexual References)

Opening Day: 6 July 2006

Synopsis :

The hero of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is Nick Naylor, chief spokesman for Big Tobacco, who makes his living defending the rights of smokers and cigarette makers in today's neo-puritanical culture. Confronted by health zealots out to ban tobacco and an opportunistic senator, who wants to put poison labels on cigarette packs, Nick goes on a PR offensive, spinning away the dangers of cigarettes on TV talk shows and enlisting a Hollywood super-agent to promote smoking in movies. Nick's newfound notoriety attracts the attention of both tobacco's head honcho and an investigative reporter for an influential Washington daily. Nick says he is just doing what it takes to pay the mortgage, but he begins to think about how his work makes him look in the eyes of his young son Joey.

Movie Review:

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is the chief spokesman for Big Tobacco and he lobbies for cigarettes. He is as witty as they come, an instantly likeable person for all the right reasons – charming, warm, a good father and cruelly funny. The only thing ostensibly wrong with him is that he defends cigarettes. Ah, but as Nick says, “If you argue correctly, you can never be wrong.” So he isn’t.

And that’s really what “Thank You For Smoking” is about – if you argue correctly, people will believe anything. It attacks the culture of spin in today’s media, making use of Nick’s persuasive talents and charisma to show how easy it is to manipulate and persuade. On a daytime talk show Nick delivers a pre-emptive strike to the crusaders he is up against: pointing to the cancer-stricken boy beside him, he says, "It's in our best interests to keep Robin alive and smoking. The anti-smoking people want Robin to die." Yet even more worthy of abuse is the public’s appetite for spin: the audience applauds. Later even Nick gets one-upped by the reporter he’s dating (Katie Holmes in an ill-fitted role) when, in moments of weakness he should have known better to avoid, he hands her the front-page scoop she seeks. It’s an easy plot contrivance but also a subtle irony, and that too is what the movie is about – masking clever details with hilarious distractions.

As far as funny goes, this movie clocks miles, but it feels like “Thank You For Smoking” contents to wade in the safe waters of comedy for the most part and only half-confronting the more dangerous terrains of satire. The wit is sharp and lightning fast, but some jokes seem to sound slightly similar towards the end. There are semblances of a mushy ending too but that aside, the stylistic swagger of the movie is consistent throughout.

Well-written dialogues are something of a lost art but, adapted from Christopher Buckley’s eponymous novel, this movie has no lack of eloquence and gifted irony – all credit to director/writer Jason Reitman for a job well done. One of the best jokes in “Thank You For Smoking” is that of the MOD Squad, a group of fellow lobbyists (firearms; alcohol) Nick lunches with weekly, MOD being the acronym for Merchants of Death. In handling the MOD Squad scenes Reitman displays a natural brilliance for comedy: he executes the scenes as though with the Midas touch, creating a truly innovative sequence that screams potential and style. There is no doubt “Thank You For Smoking” is a Reitman film through and through.

But “Thank You For Smoking” is also Nick’s movie, less about ethical crusades than it is a platform to showcase his oratory talents, more about Nick’s relationship with his son than a cynical charge on either side of the smoking debate. It is a lampoon that targets the lapdogs of power and pop culture (personified by Adam Brody’s hilariously groveling character) and makes fun of uptight moralizers who define hypocrisy (William H. Macy in a douche of a role).

Yet, still beyond the excellent direction and script is a cast that’s pitch-perfect, with almost every supporting role stealing scenes left right and centre. In Rob Lowe the casting directors have struck comedic gold – the exchange between his Hollywood mega agent role Jeff Megall and Nick is a stroke of genius. Not to forget Aaron Eckhart’s cutting turn as the politically incorrect and deliciously cocky Nick – Eckhart slips into the role with such sleekness that you forget he’s only acting. Maria Bello and David Koechner make up the MOD Squad and are sublime, their performances conveying the energy of repartee, keeping the movie in pace. Katie Holmes is the only weak link as scheming reporter Heather Holloway but perhaps it is her reputation I question, not her acting.

“Thank You For Smoking” is not perfect, but for every weakness I have pertaining to movies, this film answers with such unapologetic irreverence that it’s impossible to put it down. Rare in the quality of script, confident from start to finish and delectably snide from every angle, this is a movie that stands alone in its own class.

Movie Rating:

((A comedy of the highest quality, “Thank You For Smoking” qualifies for essential viewing)

Review by Angeline Chui


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