[Note: Thank You for Smoking was originally seen last year at the Toronto film festival, and this review was posted on 09/25/05 in the appropriate festival thread.]
*A 2006 U.S. release*
As a genuine crowd-pleaser, Thank You for Smoking doesnt let up. Its a blissful and breezy satire about the double-talk and political correctness associated with "Big Tobacco" and its companions, including the alcohol and firearm industries, among others. And while the film is neither as funny nor witty as it claims to be, it works diligently to avoid becoming clichd and sentimental, the usual traps for films like this.
Thank You for Smoking features Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, a suave, unscrupulous manipulator appropriately working as a spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies (funded by the tobacco giants, of course). He has his enemies, namely a senator from Vermont (William H. Macy) whos tired of his wily ways. However, Nick only gets into trouble when he inadvertently discloses some trade secrets to a journalist (Katie Holmes) willing to employ all means necessary in order to get a story.
Based on the 1994 novel by Christopher Buckley, Thank You for Smoking is the feature film debut of Jason Reitman (son of Ivan, Ghost Busters , Dave ). And at this point he certainly seems like a chip off the old block. Comedy is all about timing, not just from the actors, but also from the director when it comes to pacing and editing. Reitmans talents in this film are obvious in sequences involving Naylor and his counterparts, the spokespersons for alcohol and firearms (Maria Bello and David Koechner, respectively), at lunch while bantering about who has done the most damage. (The trio refer to themselves as members of a "Mod Squad," as in "Merchants of Death.") But the film also grounds itself by showcasing the relationship Naylor has with his young son (Cameron Bright, from Birth ), although, thankfully, not as a catalyst for change. Eckhart, who hasnt played too many "leading-man" roles, does well here by exhibiting the same brand of cool reserve he brought to Neil Labutes In the Company of Men (1997). One perhaps wishes that the film took even more chances with the material at hand, but its hard to complain when something is this entertaining.
*THANK YOU FOR SMOKING had its world premiere last year in Toronto. Then the film was part of the Sundance lineup earlier this year. Fox Searchlight officially released it in the U.S. on March 17th.