Thank You For Smoking (2006)
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott, Katie Holmes, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, J.K. Simmons, Robert Duvall
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Before I get into my review, I guess I should state that I'm a fairly passionate non-smoker. I'm not one of the obnoxious kinds that treats smokers like second-class citizens, but I do try to avoid them as much as I can (smokers, that is. Smoking I avoid completely). If an establishment allows smoking, then it has to be pretty special for me to go there. My in-laws smoke, and whenever my wife and I visit their house, we have to shower when we get home. Cause it stinks. A lot. I grew up with a smoker (my dad), so I didn't always notice how bad it smells. But once I got out of the smoker's environment, I realised how pervasive the smell is, to the point where I can smell the smoke residue on items left at my in-laws house (like books, DVDs, money).
That said, even with this level of antipathy for cigarettes and all they do, I still believe that cigarette companies have a right to peddle their poison to whatever morons will pay for the privilege to lower their quality of life. For the most part, I think lawsuits against big tobacco by smokers are stupid, much in the way I think lawsuits against fast food companies are stupid. You can't convince me for one second that anyone who started smoking in the past 30 years did so not knowing that they were doing something harmful to themselves. If they're now breathing through a hole in their neck, it's not because some cigarette company put a camel in their ads. It's because they're fucking stupid. Non-smoking victims of second-hand smoke? They can sue. Smokers? You reap what you sow, bee-yotches.
With that in mind, I was really looking forward to Thank You For Smoking, which looked to be an uproariously scathing satire of the tobacco lobby and those who do battle with it. Starring Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, a morally-flexible lobbyist on behalf of tobacco, the movie shows Naylor attempt to boost the sagging sales of cigarettes by getting Hollywood to put smoking in more movies. Along the way, he gets to say outrageous things, like suggesting that it's against his company's interests to give kids cancer, because then they can't sell them more cigarettes. Eckhart brings the smarminess he seems tailored for, although not quite on the same level as his In the Company of Men character. He's the anti-hero of the piece, battling his idea-stealing boss (J.K. Simmons), a Vermont senator looking to put a skull and crossbones on all cigarette packages (William H. Macy), and an ambitious reporter doing a story on him (Katie Holmes).
The movie delivered with some of the cleverness I hoped it would, but, sadly, most of the best jokes and ideas were given in the trailer. As the film developed, it managed to be entertaining, but disappointing. Naylor's quips were good, Adam Brody is a stand-out as, well, Seth Cohen as a yuppie, and some of the ideas were clever. But, the whole thing felt shallow. As time passed, it felt less like a movie and more like a Daily Show field report stretched out to be a feature length film, without the necessary transitions and plot developments to justify its length. Subplots go nowhere, characters are underdeveloped, and, worst of all, the satire just doesn't hit hard enough. It's as though they knew the title and subject matter would be enough to make the movie controversial, and then got lazy when it should've been going for the jugular.
Actually, lazy is probably the best way to describe this effort. Lazy with the plotting, lazy with the satire, and lazy with the filming. The movie isn't visually interesting, the plot doesn't move fast enough (and then moves into clichéd directions), and the satire doesn't hit hard enough. Which is a shame, because the elements are there for a great movie. Great idea, some great jokes, and a great cast-- average movie.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
The Insider (1999)