THANK YOU FOR SMOKING
HUGE THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING (5 out of 5 Rating)!
Since good things come in small packages, I find it fitting that a little known film titled Thank You For Smoking should be one such good thing. Equal parts social satire and social commentary, the film comes as a surprise star of 2005 that most will probably see this year (2006). While my extensive praise for the film may give the impression this is some magnificent, life-altering affair, I'll digress and say it's simply a great film about a great subject and the result is nothing short of my over used adjective.
Aptly named Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is a charming, well-spoken spin doctor for big tobacco, given the unenviable task of publicly promoting cigarettes in an increasingly hostile, anti-smoking society. Naylor's back-stabbing boss Budd (J.K. Simmons) sends him to make the best out of the worst situations, from fighting pro-health reform Senator Finnistirre (William H. Macy) to avoiding the pitfalls of an interview with clever reporter Heather (Katie Holmes). When not sharing trade stories over lunch with fellow "merchants of death" Polly (Maria Bello) and Bobby (David Koechner), Nick has to find time to fix his relationship with ex-wife Jill (Kim Dickens) and the will to act as a role model for his twelve-year-old son Joey (Cameron Bright, ULTRAVIOLET).
Thank You For Smoking is a film that does some of the best pontificating without coming across as preachy. The movie starts as a comedy about Nick Naylor but quickly turns into a character deconstruction then turns yet again into a surprising treatise on human rights. Through it all, the film never misses a beat or an opportunity for some gut-busting dialogue. Director Jason Reitman adeptly breathes life into a sharp script he co-wrote with Christopher Buckley, the author of the original novel. Most often in films like this we expect the main character to undergo a cliched cathartic experience in which the character repents his wayward ways. But Eckhart plays the character true and the catharsis leads the script in a direction unexpected, resulting in a brilliant and always humorous finale.
The acting in Thank You For Smoking is top notch. Every character adds some flair to their scene, whether it's serving the drama or adding the final touches on a hilarious line. The editing takes advantage of the slick, witty style of protagonist Naylor, often splicing brilliantly satirical images or the odd subtitle with Eckhart's pitch-perfect delivery of smart dialogue. Most impressive of all, the film masterfully handles the drama with freshness and inspiration, allowing the audience a strong empathy with Naylor when his life turns for the worse. Here is a main character deliciously deceptive one moment, yet likable the next, without coming across as forced or contrived. The audience can relate to the character, which sets up just the right amount of understanding when the time comes to consider the message the film is making about our rights and the freedom to choose.
The only weakness in Thank You For Smoking would be it's low profile. This is a film everyone must see, smoker and non-smoker alike. It's entertaining, funny, educational and surprisingly apolitical for a film whose message comments on society and choice.
Avoiding cliches while making a statement about our rights, Thank You For Smoking's great acting, charming characters, and perfect humor adds up to a big win.