Published Mar 01, 2006The first major motion picture from Ivan Reitman's spawn brings to light two things I had never realised before: Aaron Eckhart is Hollywood's most under-utilised asset and being a tobacco lobbyist is without a doubt the toughest job in the world.
Based on the 1994 novel by Christopher Buckley, Thank You For Smoking is a hilarious satire that reveals its true colours from the opening talk show sequence, which baits the over the top, politically incorrect line the film walks for its entirety. Eckhart expertly plays Nick Naylor, a media spokesman for the tobacco industry who does his job simply to pay his mortgage, and because he's the best at it.
But Nick has enemies who want him to be held accountable for his acidic words: a determined liberal Vermont senator (William H. Macy), an anti-tobacco group who kidnap him in a twisted scenario where tobacco actually "saves" his life, and a sexy Washington Probe journalist (Katie Holmes) who's looking for a juicy story. Nick also has an impressionable son (Cameron Bright) who he is accountable for and does his best to educate him the only way Nick can by putting a slick spin on everything to make it sound ethical.
Reitman presents Buckley's novel as a film that twists American moral fibre until it nearly breaks, which ensures that the histrionic hilarity never slows down. The cast is phenomenal; Eckhart picks up right where he left off with his smug character from In the Company of Men, playing a lovable prick you can't help but root for; and the teaming of David Koechner (an arms lobbyist) and Maria Bello (an alcohol lobbyist) as the two other members of the Merchants of Death (MOD) squad is a priceless piece of casting.
Best of all though is Reitman's exclusion of anyone actually lighting up; it's a move that may show his bias, but in the grand scheme of things, contrasts nicely with the in-your-face-ness of it all. It's the funniest film of 2006 so far. (Fox Searchlight)