Thank You for Smoking
First off, let's take a look at this cast: Aaron Eckhart, Rob Lowe, Mario Bello, William H. Macy, Robert Duvall, Sam Elliot and Katie Holmes. Not bad for a first time diretor to get this kind of star power for his film. Each one of these actors portray their character delightfully. The weakest one is Katie Holmes. She's not bad, but definitely the only one without real presence. Otherwise each character brings something different and/or witty to the table. I especially liked William H. Macy as the angry and frustrated democrat senator from Vermont who has set forth a bill that will require all cigarette packages to carry a picture of a skull and bones in lieu of the current warning. And I must mention J.K. Simmons' role as the head honcho for a major cigarette company; aka, Nick's boss. Funny, direct, blunt, angry and ultimately hilarious. I love that guy. You'll recognize him as Peter Parker's newspaper editor in the Spiderman movies.
Naylor is a lobbyist for the cigarette industry. Not only is he charged with the daunting task of getting people to start and to continue smoking, he is assigned various other unpleasant tasks. One of which is the great scene where is to deliver a bribe to the Marlboro Man who is suing the company. On top of all this, Nick is under attack from the senator, the press and, for lack of a better term, health terrorists. Basically, everyone hates him. Except his buddies that he meets for dinner once a week: the M.O.D. squad (Merchants of Death). Together they comprise the tobacco, alcohol and firearms lobby in Washington. They love to sit and compare and debate death statistics and those infernal jounalists and politicians. Besides all of these entities and people that don't like him, he must live with himself. He is constantly asked how he can sleep at night, knowing that he contributes to the death of thousands every year. On top of that, he must love his son and set a good example. Bringing his son with him on business trips and teaching him the "proper" way to debate is not something his son's mother approves of. So you have that plot line as well.
You will laugh a lot while watching this movie. It is hip and witty and best of all, original. It has a great, consistent style and a new, straight forward story line with great characters and decent acting. As the story moves along, the one-liners that are delivered are fantastic. I think Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman) really outdid himself for his first, full length, feature screenplay and directorial debut. It is satire at it's near-finest.
Here are the two problems I had with this film. Number one, it's not really all that hard-hitting. Maybe it isn't supposed to be, or maybe it was and I just didn't see it. It really didn't shock me into seeing something about cigarette companies that I haven't seen or known about before. It's a small criticism, but a valid one I think. The second problem I had was not really a problem with the film. It was more of a problem with the marketing of the film. Of the top ten funniest or well-written lines in this movie, nine of them* are in the preview that I've already seen many times. I hate it when studios do this. They really had me excited to see something funny and new and intelligent. But when the credits rolled, I realized I had already seen something funny and new and intelligent in the marketing campaign. So as a movie, I am giving it a thumbs-up. But if I include the marketing scheme that crazed me, I would have to give it a mediocre review.
So to make a long story longer, don't see the trailer for this film (ironic isn't it that I just added a link to the trailer?). Trust me that it's a great deal of fun. It's funny, it's hip and it's smart. Everyone can appreciate this. It won't make you like or hate the tobacco industry any more or less, but you'll get some good laughs afterwards as you step out onto the sidewalk and light up a Newport Ultra.