April 19, 2006

Amateur Movie Review: Thank You for Smoking

Yeah, it’s a little dated. Christopher Buckley’s slyly cynical little book came out in 1994, when spin was just entering the public consciousness. Now that spin also comes in DIY flavors, and the anti-smoking forces are funded by tobacco taxes, the worry was that the movie might lose some of its bite.

It does, but just a little bit. Buckley fans should rest easy.

Nick Naylor is the cheerfully amoral “yuppie Mephistopheles”, spokescreature for the Academy of Tobacco Studies. Aaron Eckhardt, blandly handsome and endlessly slick, is perfectly cast as Naylor. His job is to confuse the issue, and he does it very, very well. Along the way he tangles with a do-gooder bureaucrat and his handpicked “cancer boy”, the do-gooder’s unctuous boss, anti-tobacco terrorists and one very lovely (and very lifeless) newspaper reporter. There is also much commiseration at lunch with his friends in the M.O.D Squad. That’s MOD as in Merchants of Death. Naylor is cigarettes; the others are guns and alcohol. He even re-connects with his son.

But that isn’t the important part. Hell, the plot isn’t important much at all. What is important, and what works about this movie is Buckley and young director Jason Reitman taking aim at some very easy targets. The blowhard Senator? Check. Oily Hollywood agents and their suck-up assistants? Check. Self-important doctors? Check. Backstabbing bosses? Check. It’s all there, and just about all of it works. Reitman proves himself a natural, and he helms this movie with a confident hand. He’s aided by a brilliant cast, led by Eckhardt and William H. Macy as his nemesis, the Birkenstock-wearing know-it-all Senator from Vermont. As with the book, the MOD Squad moments are brilliant. Fans of the book will be disappointed at the paring of some of the relationships between the three, but it works anyway. The only misstep is Katie Holmes as the conniving reporter. Can someone remind me why I thought she was a fine actress at one point? She’s clearly trying too hard here to give a sexy, coquettish vibe. It falls flat.

Thank You for Smoking is light, breezy and very funny. It’s well worth seeing.

Posted by Frinklin at April 19, 2006 09:55 PM | TrackBack
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