Directed By: Jason Reitman
Written By: Christopher Buckley
Aaron Eckhart – Nick Naylor
Cameron Bright – Joey Naylor
Katie Holmes – Heather Holloway
Maria Bello – Polly Bailey
David Koechner – Bobby Jay Bliss
William H. Macy – Senator Ortolan Finistirre
Robert Duvall – Captain; Founder of The Academy of Tobacco Studies
K. Simmons – “B.R” Nick’s boss
Language: English Genre: Comedy-Drama
Thank You for Smoking is an adaptation of a novel of the same name. And as its name indicates it is satirical and has a lot to say about smoking.
Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is a lobbyist and the Vice-President of The Academy of Tobacco Studies. In his official position, he defends tobacco from its negative publicity by arguing cleverly. As he tells his young son Joey Naylor (Cameron Bright), that if you argue correctly, you are never wrong – after all, the irony of the Nobel peace prize is that no one remembers him as the inventor of the dynamite but as the one who instituted this prestigious award.
This takes him through buy-out deals with people whose negative experiences with smoking could harm the stance of his company – tobacco smoking has benefits. It also puts him on the hit list of the anti-smoking campaign Senator Ortolan Finistirre (William H. Macy), who is excessively righteous and believes smoking is a moral problem.
To protect tobacco, Nick Naylor is thrust in the direction of smart advertising by wanting prominent movie stars to smoke after a lovemaking scene to show that smoking is cool. Interestingly, the movie producer’s office is called Entertainment Global Office or EGO. There are quite a few puns strewn in the film like the fact that his son studies in St. Euthanasius School – reminding or ironically presenting the idea of ‘voluntary death’ – a critique of smoking.
What’s really exciting about the film is the various moral questions it throws up. The whole idea of moral judgement – who gets to decide what will be the standard followed and the punishment for deviation. How far would you go to make things right? Would you tamper with existing facts and rewrite history? And, is it right to go overboard and decide what is good for everyone?
It also brings up the paradox of choice – what if circumstances give you limited options and there is a strong moral bias against one option – what will you choose? Also, with advertising trying to make everything desirable, are you really choosing or have you been told you NEED this?
Thank You for Smoking is the other side of the story – it is the story of the hated, the despised and the suspected. Eckhart’s character is someone who is detached from the machinations of society despite his deprecating statements to Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) about everything being about the mortgage. He believes that his calling is to speak for the truly downtrodden – tobacco. What is refreshing about the film is that it doesn’t give you a run of the mill resolution, last minute changing of spots. It is realistic, quirky and satirical. And yes, certainly a little preachy but it expects you to think.