THE STORY: Jason Reitman has learned well. The son of director-producer Ivan Reitman (STRIPES, GHOSTBUSTERS) makes a strong impact with his debut feature film, the hysterical THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. Based on the wry novel by Christopher Buckley, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is set in the fascinating world of Washington spin, where, more often than not, money trumps politics and morals. Aaron Eckhart (IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, ERIN BROCKOVICH) is outstanding as Nick Naylor, the public spokesman for Big Tobacco. The blond pretty boy has no problem whatsoever going on television and telling people that smoking can actually be good for them. He meets regularly with the M.O.D. Squad — fellow Merchants of Death Polly Bailey (Maria Bello), who represents the alcohol business, and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner), who defends firearms — where they fight over who has the more difficult job based on the number of deaths their respective industries are responsible for. The smooth-talking Naylor’s next big adversary is Vermont senator Ortolan Finistirre (William H. Macy), who is calling for the government to place a skull and crossbones and the word “Poison” on all cigarette boxes. At the same time, Naylor is sent out to Hollywood to make a deal with high-powered agent Jeff Megall (Rob Lowe) to get more stars to smoke in movies, like in the good old days. All the while, Naylor is trying to establish a better relationship with his young son, Joey (Cameron Bright), without playing down his highly questionable job. The strong cast also includes Kim Dickens as Naylor’s ex-wife, J.K. Simmons as his boss, Katie Holmes as a sexy reporter, Sam Elliott as the former Marlboro Man now dying of lung cancer, and Robert Duvall as the Captain, an old-time tobacco chief who takes Naylor under his wings. THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is a very funny satire that will leave audiences gasping for breath from laughing so hard.
THE REVIEW: Thank You For Smoking comes in like a whisper and goes out with a roar. It’s one of those interesting and funny movies you never see coming. What makes Thank You For Not Smoking so good is its dark satire.
Aaron Eckhart is great as Nick Naylor the man who spins for the cigarette companies. Naylor is the kind of guy that could talk you into letting your kids smoke. He’s as slick as an oil spill and makes you feel as dirty—but he’ll convince you by convincing you there is no argument. Even if he knows he is wrong he’ll convince you he’s right. Or that your argument is incorrect. He does it by confusing the facts and confusing those who argue with him. He uses the misunderstanding of facts or holes in their statement against them. A small hole turns into a massive one that even doctors fall into. And that is why the movie is so funny.
It’s funny to see Naylor sitting with his “Merchants of Death” discussing whose product is more dangerous—that is until you realize how someone somewhere might be doing the same thing. Another interesting dynamic of the movie is Nick’s son who is learning everything bad from his father who encourages him to fight the power—but that even being bad can be good. It comes to a point where Nick has to come to terms with his work and his life.
THE EXTRAS: There are two commentaries. The first is with Director Jason Reitman who seems to have a lot of fun as he delivers interesting details and background information. The second commentary features Director, Jason Reitman, Aaron Eckhart, and David Koechner. Most of this discussion is what has already been given by Reitman during his solo commentary.
There are deleted scenes with optional director commentary. It’s more interesting to listen to Reitman discuss the scenes because he tells us how and why they were deleted. There is an interview with Charlie Rose is a snooze.
The Making-Of Featurette doesn’t add a thing to what the commentary already offers. It doesn’t even show anything exciting. The “America: Living in Spin” Featurette is another making-of featurette without any new information. Finally, there is a poster gallery and an art gallery.
FRANKLY: At the end of the day we see Naylor as a sad figure. He has essentially sold his soul for a job that pays well and gives him a chance to put his face on television. He’s a superstar of spin and his ego gets in the way of his soul.
+ Charlie Craine