Written and Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello and Robert Duvall
Tobacco lobbyist, Nick Naylor, imparts many practical approaches to life’s many problems upon all the people he deals with. He tells people how to see things for a living and knows that they’re listening to him. No one person is perhaps listening to him more than his own son. And though Nick’s confidence might blind him into a false sense of security in life, he is not so far removed as to not know that the molding of his son’s mind is his most important job. Thus, when he tells his son that if you argue correctly then you are never wrong, it is not only the true beauty of argument, but it is also a strong, decisive direction to give your son. In that moment, he is a good father and not one of the most hated faces in America. This dichotomy between person and persona is what makes Nick Naylor real and Aaron Echkart’s portrayal of Naylor, as it is guided along its unexpected journey by director Jason Reitman, is what makes THANK YOU FOR SMOKING a real smart comedy.
Anyone I know who has avoided seeing this film has done so because they didn’t want to see a satirical look at smoking. The shame there is that this film avoids clichés whenever it can and doesn’t bother wasting its or our time positioning Naylor to learn a lesson about tobacco being bad. The lesson Naylor must learn is about pride as his is shaken during the course of the film by a disparaging piece of journalism. When life kicks you to the floor, it does not necessarily mean that everything you knew beforehand was wrong. Naylor had a pretty good idea about how to make life work for him but he stopped believing in himself. And when you can’t convince yourself of something, you certainly can’t convince others. Further to the root of this hilarious film are purpose and drive. Naylor’s biggest criticism from those who know him is pointed at his choice to lobby for big tobacco. It seems an easy place to start but it negates that Naylor is good at what he does. He can argue well for those who no one else would dream to argue for. It therefore becomes an inspiration to push yourself as far as possible when you find what you’re truly good at. And once you’re doing something, you might as well do it as well as you can because at the end of the day, everyone’s got their mortgage to pay for and you can’t come back with nothing. That’s a little approach to life I learned from a smooth-talking guy named Nick Naylor.
Son of director Ivan Reitman, Jason has clearly found what he’s good at. THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is his first full-length film and it is sharp and witty. It has an energy that is infectious and a style that is both cool and hip, much in the way one sees smokers, minus the cancer, yellow teeth and bad breath. From the flashy pop-art of the opening credits shaped into cigarette packages to the usage of split screens, ironic subtitling and video, Reitman crafts a sexy, slick film that could have easily turned any of its viewers on to smoking. However, in perhaps what is Reitman’s most brilliant touch to this film, not one character ever lights up.