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Naylor loves his job. He also happens to be really, really good
at it. All this might be admirable Ė if it
werenít the fact that Nickís job, in the eyes of anybody with,
oh, a soul, is pretty much evil incarnate. Nick, see, is the American
tobacco industryís top lobbyist, which means he spends his time
and energy actively promoting cigarette smoking and protecting
the sneaky tactics of the countryís tobacco companies, in blatant
disregard of the fact that the health consequences of smoking have
been well documented. Nickís so good at spinning his arguments
that he can make health watchgroups, doctors and lung cancer patients
look like the dupes, and paint his employers as the poor victims
in a government conspiracy to limit the personal freedom of Americans.
That most folks disapprove of his profession doesnít bother him
a bit; heís got a couple of like-minds he hangs out with on a regular
basis, Polly Bailey and Bobby Jay Bliss, who happen to be an alcohol
and a firearms lobbyist respectably (the reviled three refer to
themselves as the MOD squad, short for Merchants of Death). Still,
moral flexibility aside, Nick isnít all that terrible a guy. He
genuinely loves his pre-pubescent son Joey, and does a mostly decent
job of teaching the kid how to think for himself; he makes a real
effort to bond with him. Itís an attempt to do this last that he
ends up bringing Joey along with him to California as he prepares
to launch his latest tactic towards making cigarette smoking seem
more positive: getting Hollywood involved and sneaking in some
good olí product placement. It looks like Nickís on his way to
scoring another victory for big tobacco, until he finds himself
getting involved with an ambitious and rather fetching young journalist
named Heather Holloway.
now weíve all had this simplistic message hammered into our brains:
Cigarettes kill. Tobacco companies bad. So itís a weird thing to
find yourself kinda sorta rooting for the too-slick tobacco lobbyist,
but as protagonist Nick Naylor, Aaron Eckhart is so good that you
canít help finding yourself getting more than a little sucked in
by his charm. Heís so clearly having a grand old time delivering
Nickís twisted-genius arguments, and itís impossible to imagine the
role could have been any better cast. By movieís end, Eckhart actually
manages to make Nick seem like the hero (relatively speaking; this
is a movie in which just about everyone comes off as completely
self-serving). This -- combined with a strong script (adapted from
a novel by Christopher
Buckley) that ensures that the barbed jokes are equal-opportunity
offenders that skewer politicians, the media, and righteous do-gooders
alike -- means that the movie doesnít end up being the scathing indictment
of the tobacco industry that some folks might expect. In
the end, Thank You For Smokingís biting satire isnít
aimed so much at cigarettes and their makers, but rather at how hypocritical
all can be. And frankly, this makes for a whole lot more interesting
viewing. Because, honestly, who doesnít already know that the cigarette
companies are evil? Thereís been media coverage of that fact a-plenty.
What Thank You for Smoking provides is something
a whole lot harder to find: itís deeply, snort-out-loud funny, effortlessly
stylish, and very
smart Ö fresh, snappy and just complete fun to watch.óreviewed
by Yee-Fan Sun
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