Thank You For Smoking

“Micheal Jordan plays ball, Charles Manson kills people, I talk.” This statement could be described as the ethos of Nick Naylor, the main character in the movie “Thank You For Smoking.” Aaron Eckheart ably plays the tobacco lobbyist and spokesman at the heart of the film. The story covers Naylor’s inner turmoil – not over his job, he has long come to terms with that – but the turmoil due to a rocky relationship with his son Joey, who’s first line in the movie is, “please don’t ruin my childhood,” which he says right before his dad speaks to his elementary school class. As the story progresses Joey comes to accept what his father does by experiencing it firsthand.

Going into “Thank You For Smoking” I was expecting a harsh critique of the tobacco industry, marketing and corporations in general. Instead I was presented with a movie that satirized the industry, but at the same time humanized and explored the people who are the face of what so many people consider to be evil. That isn’t to say that “Thank You For Smoking” has no teeth – it does, in fact it has many genuinely funny moments that critique and make fun of a culture that allows and encourages lies for profit. However, it separates people from corporations, and personal choice from entitlement.

The storytelling of “Thank You For Smoking” is conventional. The character is introduced and shown to the audience, he faces trials and tribulations, and in the end he succeeds at winning in a showdown with his archenemy, a senator from Vermont played by William H. Macy. The writing and script, combined with the supporting roles, all lend themselves to a sharp and witty story. There is hardly a single performance that takes away from the movie. Even that annoying guy from “The O.C.” made me laugh with something about a dog and syphilis. His character was written as deliberately irritating, so it wasn’t much of a stretch. Other solid performances by Robert Duvall, Katie Holmes and Rob Lowe round out the cast and complete the story.

In the end, “Thank You For Smoking” is solid movie that has moments of stark hilarity, but still follows a familiar formula we’ve seen in many other films. What sets “Thank You For Smoking” apart is the setting in which the character resides, that of the cocksure lobbyist for a much-hated industry. What is most surprising is that at the end of the movie the audience feels connected to Naylor. He doesn’t change his profession, but you understand his motivations for doing what he does.