Thank You for Smoking
It's not likely even Jeffrey Wigand would have much to protest in response to Jason Reitman's film. Thank You For Smoking, a faux pro-smoking film that is really pro-its own attitude, isn't deviant enough to merit concerns of Anti-Tobacco. Pro-Tobacco should send a check to Reitman; he makes lobbyists look cool. Or at least, conscious that they're perceived as evil personified.
I like Aaron Eckhardt. Even in The Company of Men, in which he was evil personified. In one scene in that film, he jokes with a coworker, then, when the coworker leaves, Eckhardt turns to another male employee in the room, saying, "I hate that guy." The poor fellow listening to him doesn't know how to respond so, in order to be agreeable (the cornerstone demeanor of any office environment) nods. Neil LaBute captured, in a brief throwaway scene, the casual malevolence of a specific world, and Eckhardt's delivery of that malevolence is so unassuming that we, the filmgoer, are left unsure in our reactions. Do we hate this guy? Do we want to hate this guy?
Here again, then Eckhardt plays a guy we should hate, but we really can't. He doesn't do anything overtly destructive. In fact, in addition to being affable with fellow lobbyist-friends Maria Bello (alcohol) and David Koechner (guns), Echardt's Nick Naylor is a good dad. Some of the better scenes involve dialogue in which Naylor instructs his son on the fine differences between argument and negotiation.
Too bad, then, that Reitman – did I mention he was producer Ivan Reitman's son? Not that this matters because he's a good writer – stops making his point fairly early on in the film. Which is? At first blush, it's that smoking in itself isn't as bad as taking away an individual's freedom to decide for him/herself whether it's bad. Ok, then, but why does Reitman introduce a subplot of a pro-smoking film studio bribe that never pays off? The storyline does give us Naylor's eccentric boss, played by Robert Duvall, and Rob Lowe, as a Japanese gown-wearing producer who (Reitman tweaking his dad's nose here?) sleeps on Sunday. Reitman obviously has a lot to draw on, given his own background, but none of it seems to have any purpose other than to say, I know people like this.
But, I suspect, Reitman doesn't know lobbyists, or else Naylor would have been a tad less likeable. It's interesting, too, that all the scenes in the trailer are from the first third of the film and that there is no third act; it's all formulaic narrative device drawing from none-too-subtle references to Jimmy Stewart.
Yeah, Phillip-Morris should be sending a check to Reitman any day for this one.
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