Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring:||Aaron Eckhart, Robert Duvall, Katie Holmes, William H. Macy, Sam Elliott|
|Producer:||John Schmidt, Edward R. Pressman, Alessandro Camon|
|Distributor:||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
“Nick Naylor doesn’t hide the truth… he filters it.”
It is likely that a Starbucks barista will thank you when you buy a cup of coffee from them. It is not likely that someone from the tobacco industry would actually thank you for consuming their addictive substances. If it did happen, it may be as odd as the film Thank You For Smoking which explores various aspects of the tobacco industry through satire. This bold genre of storytelling is certainly an acquired taste, and one that moviegoers could choke on if they are not used to it.
Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) works for the tobacco industry as a mediator between smokers and non-smokers. He says that his best gift is to talk. For him, his work of talking happens to be in arguing and defending the business and dealings of the tobacco industry. As the spokesman and public face of this oft hated industry, Nick teaches his son Joey (Cameron Bright) not only to think for himself, but also the art of argument. Through opposition, attacks and betrayals, Nick must ultimately decide if his path is the best one for him and those around him.
Within this film, there is some offensive content. The f-word is used many times, Christ’s name is taken in vain, and there is other foul language, too. Also, there is a somewhat brief, but pretty explicit sex scene and other moments where sex is talked about in a very crass way.
Apart from these obvious offensive things, this film is intended to be offensive. Our main character, Nick (short for nicotine?) is not a likeable character. He is manipulative, deceiving and conniving and he knows it. Not only does he know how bad he operates, but he also teaches his son to do the same. In one scene Joey questions his dad, asking him questions about honesty and when to admit you are wrong. Nick’s lesson to his son is that if he argues correctly, then he is never wrong. In a following scene, Joey uses these tactics on his mother, Polly (Maria Bello) to get what he wants. These moments may really make you laugh and/or mad but that is the point and the desired effect of this genre.
Because it is satire, there is also a comedic element to this movie. There are some humorous moments, but there are some that really push the envelope. At one point there was a joke about a cancer patient. Again, the point must have been to not necessarily entertain us, but to provoke us. Still, some may find it to be too much.
There are some humorous moments, however, that do seem to work. For instance, in one scene Nick is the guest speaker for his son Joey’s grade school class and discusses the work that he does. He encourages the kids to think for themselves, and, as in many moments of the film, argues that it is okay to smoke if you want to. The moments are a bit ironic, and aren’t necessarily supposed to always be funny. It’s easy to want the comedy, but more often than not what we get is the satirical bite.
By the end, it was difficult to know what was the purpose of the film. It seemed like a campaign against the tobacco industry, but by the end the focus was really on Nick’s character. It wasn’t about smoking being good or bad, but upon how this man can talk his way into or out of anything. In one scene, he is able to convince a former Marlboro Man model that has been diagnosed with cancer to accept a briefcase full of money so he won’t badmouth the tobacco industry. Nick is being presented here as someone who could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo, but I didn’t always buy it. The desired effect of this film didn’t always have the punch it seemed to intend to have.
If you are interested in seeing a modern effort on satire, this may be worth the venture for you. It is a brave work, but overall not one that is easy to get into or enjoy. The production value is up to par, but it won’t necessarily give you a lot to walk away with.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy