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Thank You for Smoking

Genre: Comedy/Drama
Rated: R
Directed by
: JASON REITMAN
Starring: AARON ECKHART, KATIE HOLMES, SAM ELLIOTT, ROB LOWE, WILLIAM H. MACY, ROBERT DUVALL
Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

In Short: Aaron Eckhart's performance is addictive as a tobacco industry hack in this smoldering satire.

Oh, Lighten Up
A Comedy, But Not a Puff Piece
By Andrew Bender

To paraphrase the song that just won the Oscar, it’s hard out there for a lobbyist, especially if you’re pimping a product that kills 1,200 people every day. It’s hard, that is, unless you’re good, and Nick Naylor is one of the best.

Played by Aaron Eckhart, Nick may be smug and smarmy, but he’s also got a charm and schoolboy innocence that make him impossible to hate. Most of all, he knows what some of us never learn: that you don’t have to be right to win a point; you just have to make people doubt what the other guy says.

"Thank You for Smoking" is based on the novel by Christopher Buckley, and both versions of this story are about the high-wire tension of knowing that what you’re doing is instinctively, viscerally wrong and loving it anyway. Here's Nick going to the Tobacco Club in Winston-Salem to meet the grand old man of the tobacco business (Robert Duvall). There he’s meeting with a Hollywood super-agent (Rob Lowe) to plant cigarettes in movies. He combats a do-gooder senator (William H. Macy), seduces a seductress reporter (Katie Holmes) and takes a briefcase full of cash to the Marlboro Man (Sam Elliott) who’s dying of smoking-related illnesses. But it’s not a bribe. Absolutely not.

Although the film is bright and snappy, it never lets us forget the macabre either: Nick regularly gets together with his pals in the "MOD Squad," lobbyists for the alcoholic beverage and firearms industries (MOD stands for “merchants of death”), and his 12-year-old son attends St. Euthanasius school.

And there’s the real rub. Washington may intone "What about our children?" ad infinitum, but this story makes it personal. In this world where morality can be bought and sold, what does Nick teach this astute young man who’s just beginning to make decisions for himself?

We could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you.



(Published: 03/14/06)


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