12/14/06

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

Aaron Eckhart (Nick Naylor), Maria Bello (Polly Bailey), Cameron Bright (Joey Naylor), William H. Macy (Senator Finistirre)

Directed by Jason Reitman (Ivan's son)

IMDB: "Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son."

Considering that Keven worked for Philip Morris as an intern this summer, everyone assumes we had long since seen this movie. In fact, when we ate dinner in Richmond with Richard & Jenny, the theater across the street from the restaurant featured a sold-out showing. But no... we just saw it Monday.

As a satire, Thank You For Smoking is blunt and forceful. This is no shrinking violet of a film, gently making its point with subtle jests. Naylor narrates, comparing himself to Michael Jordan and Charles Manson (but in a good way!), while maintaining a well-realized sense of detachment from his profession.

As a character, Naylor is the definition of compartmentalization. He knows his job. He does his job. And along the way, he skillfully manages to keep that job separate from the task of selling tobacco. Keven does this on occasion, and he certainly did over the summer: teasing out one's individual role from the larger process, focusing on the task at hand, playing the job like a game. Winning matters, not that complicated moral stuff.

The Jordan reference, by the way, (as well as a couple of other instances such as the women's clothing and make-up), quietly positioned the story in the mid-90s. The era of pre-tobacco settlements is portrayed as a heyday of spin and misinformation during a time when the cigarette companies could still hide behind inconclusive research.

I loved the MOD Squad scenes, particularly the discussion about their individual worthiness of being kidnapped for the evils they perpetrate. I miss Maria Bello; she is sweetness and acid together. Eckhart annoyed the CRAP out of me in Possession, but I didn't hold that against him since I hated that entire film. Here, he played the perfect Teflon corporate man, while retaining an underlying sense of intelligence, self-preservation, and love for his son.

Rob Lowe cracked me up. Macy phoned in his performance as a guy IN CHARGE but without POWER (a la Jerry Lundegaard). And overall, the film made its multi-focal points about smoking, the human tendency to rationalize, and the fickle nature of public opinion, all without being too preachy... and all while delivering the laughs.

1 comment:

DKM said...

I loved this movie, especially the MoD Squad. Maria Bello was great, but then, so was David Koechner as Bobby. Fav line - Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent.