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|Thank You for Smoking|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Jason Reitman|
with Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello, David Koechner, Robert Duvall, William H Macy, Adam Brody, Rob Lowe, JK Simmons, Todd Louiso, Sam Elliott
release US 17.Mar.06,
06/US Content 1h32
The MOD squad: Bello, Koechner and Eckhart
With this social satire, Reitman takes a gentle approach reminiscent of Pail Weitz's American Dreamz. In other words, it's a vicious, lacerating send-up couched inside a goofy comedy.
The film follows a week or so in the life of Nick Naylor (Eckhart), ace lobbyist for the tobacco companies. He's trying to reconnect with his teen son (Bright), conduct an interview with a hot journalist (Holmes), stay on the good side of tobacco boss The Captain (Duvall), make a deal with Hollywood movers and shakers (Brody and Lowe) and fend off the attacks of a rabid senator (Macy). Normally this would be no problem, but will Nick finally lose his face with his fellow Merchants of Death--lobbyists for alcohol (Bello) and guns (Koechner).
Superb acting and a willingness to be completely politically incorrect make the film work brilliantly. Eckhart has impeccable timing as the smiling anti-hero, a guy who makes even the most questionable moral positions sound almost reasonable. He's so charming that he gets away with, almost literally, murder. And he bounces perfectly off the rest of the cast, who all draw out the meaty subtext of their characters, blending straight drama with outrageous spoof.
Reitman's script is wonderfully astute, jabbing fiercely at politics and commercialism, and deftly highlighting the fact that little in the world is black and white anymore. Sure shades of grey are not necessarily a bad thing, but it depends who's wielding the power. Or lurking in the shadows. Ethics are the central things here. And along the way, he also manages to make some intriguing side observations on family relationships and professional camaraderie.
If there's a problem it's in the too-light approach. The film meanders and drifts at times, covering a few too many bases to snap into vivid focus. It also falls into some convenient plotting and contrived comical situations. But it's such a sharp look at issues we're afraid to address that the film is well worth watching--and often thrilling in its bracing observations on shifting morality. This biting audacity often catches us completely off guard, and that's never a bad thing.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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