Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thank You For Smoking

2005, US, directed by Jason Reitman

Jason Reitman's adaptation of Christopher Buckley's novel is a broad, and often very funny, satire of both the tobacco industry and the spin doctors who do such sterling work on the industry's behalf. It's not clear, though, whether the complete lack of smoking onscreen is part of the joke, or further conformity with current Hollywood (double?) standards; there's certainly no reluctance to show drinking and guns (the central character, Nick Naylor, pow-wows weekly with his counterparts in those industries).

Aaron Eckhart is perfectly cast as Nick, the ideal pitchman for the kinds of moral equivocations so dear to Big Tobacco. Even in those films where Eckhart plays an out-and-out cad, there's an aspect of his character that's insistently attractive. Director Neil LaBute exploited this quality to particularly good effect in his début film, In the Company of Men, though Eckhart's first opportunity to really charm an audience came with a supporting turn in Steven Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich. Here, he deploys his full wattage on behalf of an unreasonable cause and yet starts to make the viewer feel that it would be even more unreasonable to even think of disagreeing with him. Reitman has surrounded Eckhart with a top-notch supporting cast: J.K. Simmons and Robert Duvall, among others, are especially good, but Rob Lowe has a standout sequence as a Hollywood super-agent; his meeting of minds with Nick is a joy to behold.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States