Smoke and Mirrors

Christopher Buckley’s novel “Thank You for Smoking” came out in 1994. This is before 9/11 and war on terror. A time before WMDs and Iraq. Back then, cigarettes were the terrorists. It kills 1,200 Americans a day. Take that, Osama!

Jason Reitman’s “Thank You for Smoking” is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, with a pitch-perfect salesmanship performance by Aaron Eckhart. He plays Big Tobacco spokesman Nick Naylor and yes, this “bad guy” is the main character the viewer is to bond with. Even if he’s campaigning for cigarettes, you have to respect the guy for taking on such a malicious job and be doing it well. What’s scary is the way he effectively applies charisma, bravado, and twisted logic. If the guy can convince you to smoke a pack, it’s quite probable he might also persuade you to jump off a building.

The movie’s debate isn’t whether smoking is good or bad. (Come on, who doesn’t know smoking is bad for you?) Even if tobacco companies claim health problems directly caused by smoking are inconclusive, you and I should know better. We should be smart enough to figure out the truth and shouldn’t be easily manipulated by any spin doctor’s mambo-jumbo. But this doesn’t mean that we should refuse to believe everything that Nick Naylor says. That would be wrong. I actually agreed with him at one point: no matter how bad a cigarette is, you cannot take it away from people. That’s taking away freedom. Uhm, remember Prohibition?

I like movies like “Thank You for Smoking” for it makes you think and also aims to tickle. The satire is on the ball and the laughs keep on rolling. Some characters are cartoonish, but then again, there are people like these in reality. If there’s any truth the movie mines the most, it’s this: people will do funny things for the glorious dollar sign.

While Nick Naylor claims to do it to pay for mortgage, he has another good reason. He’s at Karl Rove level of blowing smoke out of his ass. It’s one of the “what if” scenarios the movie poses. What if your talent is bad for the world? It’s your God-given gift, shouldn’t you use it? And the other “what if” scenario is – what if your dad is the most hated person in the world. I guess only Jenna and Barbara Bush can only answer that question. Thank you for reading.

Grade: A-

Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott, Katie Holmes, William H. Macy, Rob Lowe, and Robert Duvall
Screenplay by
Jason Reitman
Based on the novel by
Christopher Buckley
Directed by
Jason Reitman
Rated R for language and some sexual content