Saturday, September 02, 2006

Movie Review: Thank You for Smoking

It is a mystery, to me, how someone can get up each morning and go to work to promote a product that kills thousands of people every day. I am, of course, talking about the people who work for tobacco companies. They must have a way of distorting their thinking to the point where what is black is white. The satirical Thank You for Smoking pointedly critiques the "spin doctors" of our society who are expert at finding a way to make the most negative sound the most positive. Aaron Eckhart (Nick Naylor) is employed by the Big Tobacco Company to come up with strategies for persuading the consumer that smoking is good. He is a master at his job -- one of the best. While doing this, he has to try to be a good role model for his son who is a mirror that makes thinking about what he does unavoidable. There are moments in Thank You for Smoking that are hilariously caustic and indiscriminately poke fun at the do-gooders as well. Katy Holmes (pre-TC) is excellent as the journalist who will stop at nothing to get her story. Robert Duvall is great as "The Captain" of Big Tobacco and William H Macey is great as Senator Ortolan Finistirre who is out to "get" the tobacco industry. Thank You for Smoking is uneven in its humour with a few moments standing out, like the on-air persuasion, by Eckhart, of a cancer-boy that the cigarette companies are good and his "bribing" of the dying Marlboro Man to keep quiet about the cause of his illness. The plot is good and the director handles the story lightly without preachiness or condescension. Despite its flaws, Thank You for Smoking is probably one of the most intelligent and courageous satires to come out of Hollywood for years, particularly if you have noticed the increase in smoking in the movies lately -- obviously a funding source! What it says is relevant to much of the corporate world and media where, as Eckhart says at one point in the movie, one 'requires a moral flexibility that is beyond most people.' If you feeling like inhaling a politically incorrect, funny, thought-provoking social commentary, then check it out. My Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review 'A sly, smart and very funny caricature of corporate politics and image culture.' - Sean Axmaker/Seattle Post-Intelligencer Negative Review 'For a film that's ostensibly about modern American society's love affair with addictive behavior – sex, drugs, rock & roll – its bark is much worse than its bite.' - Marc Savlov/Austin Chronicle Content Warning Language and some sexual content

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