Original Review Date: 4/13/2006
Thank You for Smoking is a satire teetering on the precipice of the highest quality work produced for the genre. Jason Reitman’s film deals with serious issues but filters them through enough comedy that the viewer almost doesn’t realize that an important truth has been spoken by its cadre of characters until the next scene has started and possibly never. Aaron Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, the chief lobbyist for the Cigarette Industry. When someone is needed to speak on behave of the Cigarette Industry in a public venue, Nick Naylor is at the top of the list. Naylor is the kind of amoral public speaker that most Public Relations professionals wish and aspire to be. He can talk virtually anybody into seeing his point of view. He tells his young son Joey that when you’re in an debate, you don’t have to prove that your point of view is correct; you only have to prove that the other guy’s point of view is wrong. Once that is done, only your point of view remains, so it has to be the right one.
This is only one of the many truths spoken and also one of the key points in how Naylor sells the viability of being a lobbyist to his son. Naylor is also a member of a three person social group consisting of Maria Bello, an alcohol lobbyist and David Koechner, a firearm lobbyist. They call themselves the M.O.D. (Merchants of Death) Squad and meet in a local restaurant every week to socialize and discuss various topics, like which of their industries kills the most people per year.
During this particular year in Naylor’s life, he has come under fire from Vermont Senator Ortolan K. Finistirre, played with political veal by William H. Macy. Finistirre believes that Naylor is a bottom feeder and constantly invites him and other representatives of the cigarette industry to Senate hearings on multiple cigarette issues, chief among them being the inclusion of a poison label on the front of all cigarette packages. Katie Holmes also plays a vital role in the film as a newspaper reporter that’s writing a story on Naylor. Naylor is able to get himself out of many worrisome situations that his job gets him into by use of spin. Not even his skill is adequate enough for the trouble he talks himself into during subsequent meetings with Holms’ Heather Holloway. On these particular occasions, Naylor’s isn’t to blame. He was persuaded to divulge information to Holloway by influence of her “glorious” journalistic talents.
Thank You for Smoking drives home the moral turpitude of many of the most influential people in the leading industries and politics throughout the United States of America. It is humorous and informative, much like Warren Beatty’s Bulworth. There is a sign hanging in the restaurant that the M.O.D. Squad meets in that reads: America is the Greatest Government, then underneath it in smaller letters: that can be bought. It shows up near the end of the second act of the film but by then the sign is telling us what we already know.