Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

Based on the book by Christopher (son of William F.) Buckley, this is political satire at it's finest. Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, a tobacco lobbyist who describes himself as "that guy who can get any girl." And he's probably right. The man has a knack for talking over, through, and around any subject and takes delight in the fact that he is successful at a job where his sole duty is to shine a positive light on an industry that kills 1200 people a day. He lunches with lobbyists from the alcohol (Maria Bello) and firearm (David Koechner) industries (known as the MOD Squad, where MOD stands for Merchants Of Death) and they discuss the PR nightmares they must face each week (up to and including deformed babies) with detached attitudes more befitting of accountants discussing the latest tax code revisions. The movie opens with Naylor on the Joan Lunden show seated next to a young man dying of cancer and showing signs of chemotherapy. The rest of the panel consists of representatives from anti-smoking groups, but Naylor manages to outshine them all. He boldly states that the firms he represents have more interest in saving the life of "Cancer Boy" as a valued customer, while the other panelists want to see him and those like him dead in order to push their agendas and get grant money. It's a beautiful twist that turns an audience who openly sneered with contempt at him to his side while his fellow panelists stammer ineffectual rebukes as the show goes to break. The rest of the film follows Naylor as he attempts to get Hollywood to put more cigarettes in movies (because the only people that smoke in the movies anymore are villians and Europeans), bribe a former Marlboro Man who's dying of cancer, and testifies before a senate panel that wishes to place the "poison" skull and crossbones warning label on all cigarette packs.

The beauty of the movie is that it skewers everyone in politics. Naylor is "the hero" of the picture, but he admits to his son that it takes a certain moral flexibility to do what he does and is duped by a female reporter who uses sex as a means to write an expose on him and his firm riddled with damaging quotes he thought were otherwise privileged information (best quote of the movie: "I assumed anything I said while I was inside of you was off the record."). Macy's do-gooder Vermont senator who is spearheading the label issue is clearly in it for the publicity and not out of concern for the health or well being of his constituents. Naylor embarrasses him time and again, especially on an episode of The Dennis Miller Show (is that still on?) where he points out that the senator had denounced tobacco farmers and called for the slashing and burning of their fields right before showing up at Farm Aid to stand in support with and show his concern for the plight of the American farmer. It's a well written and hilarious movie that any political junkie (such as myself) would love.


Blogger Newspaper Hack said...

I really want to see this film. It looks really funny. But this: "I assumed anything I said while I was inside of you was off the record" -- nothing ever said to a journalist is off the record unless you or the journo says so. Don't even matter if you're bangin' uglies.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

I loved it, though I thought it was really short and kind of abrupt towards the end. The characters withtin the story were great and superbly acted, but it's almost as if suddenly the script didn't know where to go with them all.
I literally laughed out loud at least a dozen times.
The best part of this for me was the number of people in the theater that just didn't get some of the jokes. Some laughs were theater wide, but every 3rd joke or so, only a handful of people were laughing. It was good stuff!

And Wes, I sat there thinking exactly that... he never said the words off the record. You'd think a guy who talks for a living would know that. Seriously, the biggest letdown of the movie for me. The script is so smart and that detail just totally slipped. Sure, the line it led to was great, like Todd said, but its still driving me nuts.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Newspaper Hack said...

Todd -- as a Bama fan and patriotic American, I'm sure you'll love this post: http://journorock.blogspot.com/2006/04/why-football-matters.html

8:04 PM  

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