'Thank you for Smoking' *** 051206
Theatrical Review (2005)


The Work = ***
'Thank you for Smoking' will not appeal to everyone. The film is a highly enjoyable take on a tobacco lobbyist named Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart.) This is Naylor’s story and he narrates it, explaining his job and how he can do what he does. He is smarmy and he makes a company that kills people and hooks them on their product look good but he could not hold together a marriage.

Cameron Bright does a good job playing his son Joey. (Bright is in quite a range of films lately, check some of his credits: 'Birth', 'Godsend', 'Running Scared', 'Ultraviolet', and 'X-Men: The Last Stand'.) Joey has heard his father’s speeches before and when his father gets rolling on “bring your dad to work day” he just rolls his eyes and puts his head down. Naylor’s ex-wife Jill (Kim Dickens) is immune to his verbiage as well but not to Joey’s (he’s quickly learning from the old man.)

The film is surprisingly clever as it tackles the tobacco industry and those involved in it with humor and style. (The way Naylor rubs off on his son and the way young Joey debates Jill is just one of the examples.) A great plot development deals with Naylor going to a Hollywood agent (well played by Rob Lowe) to put together a mega million dollar film that is sure to be a hit; the only catch is the two leads have to smoke. That the film 'Thank you for Smoking' is a film about a tobacco lobbyist and it contains no onscreen smoking is a sly joke in and of itself.

A small role by Sam Elliot provides the film’s real emotional center. Elliot plays Lorne Lutch, the original Marlboro Man. Once, a rugged looking model, he is now racked by cancer and living in a small house in the country. Naylor has the thankless job of bringing Lutch a bribe. How the scene plays out between Naylor and Lutch rings surprisingly true. I will not say what happens but it is equal parts sad and funny. That moment is one of several that lift 'Thank you for Smoking' above being just a funny movie. The film is surprisingly aware of its subject and many of the issues surrounding it.

I said at the beginning of this review that 'Thank you for Smoking' will not appeal to everyone but those who do like it (such as myself) will probably be big fans of it. First time director Jason Reitman tackles a tricky film subject with skill and humor. There are several good performances in the film but Eckhart is especially noteworthy. He carries the film and does a great job as Naylor. Robert Duval pops up as a tobacco baron and Maria Bello and David Koechner has supporting roles as fellow lobbyists (Naylor’s only real friends.) William H. Macy is a hoot as determined senator that goes after big tobacco. Finally Katie Holmes has brief supporting role as a reporter that falls for Naylor.

I enjoyed this film and am recommending it. Because of its subject and quirky style I can’t give it a stronger recommendation but that does not mean it is a lesser film. Reitman (the son of director Ivan Reitman) shows he can create a funny, moving film, that is knowledgeable about it’s subject without being preachy or dry. I say give it a try if you are curious, you just may enjoy the film as much as I do. Recommended.


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