A review of “Thank You for Smoking” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language and sexual content

Run Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

 

 

Jason Reitman’s wickedly droll and irreverent comedy is a politically incorrect breath of fresh air.

Aaron Eckhart is protagonist Nick Naylor, the resourceful chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies who pushes cigarettes to a puritanically anti-smoking society. Nick is the Colonel Sanders of nicotine; a jolly soul who defends the rights of tobacco manufacturers and smokers by twisting logic with assertive glee while cancer-ridden addicts sue the industry in droves.

Undeterred, Nick takes his spin-meistering to Hollywood, pitching a schmoozy showbiz bigwig (Rob Lowe) on a product placement blockbuster sure to sway even the most rabid non-smoker. Bring sex back to cigarettes! Brad and Angie light up in outer space!

Nick’s bravado extends to bedding the dogged investigative reporter (Katie Holmes) who’s threatening to blow the whistle on his shaky ethics a la a vicious expose for her tony Washington periodical. Another itch that won’t be scratched is opportunistic (and badly-monikered) Senator Ortolan Finistirre from Vermont (William H. Macy) who hopes to pass legislature requiring skull-and-crossbones on cigarette packets.

Trouble brews on the home front as well as Nick waxes rhapsodic to his impressionable pre-adolescent son Joey (Cameron Bright) on his choice of career yet clearly doesn’t have a philosophical leg to stand on.

Eckhart gives an excellent read to his contemporary soap-boxer; his ribald bonhomie laced with a poisonous mix of anxiety and bluster. How far to cross a line for giggles? Smoking is no laughing matter but Reitman’s screenplay (based on Christopher Buckley’s acclaimed 1994 novel) spoofs its dubious subject matter with no guilty conscience in sight, relishing the opportunity to mock the absurd with tongue-in-cheek gravity. Its cheerful cynicism is simply irresistible.