Utter the phrase ‘a film about a pro-tobacco lobbyist’ and feel the hands reaching for the phones by people who like to complain about things that if they disapprove of so much they should use their tiny brains and not watch instead of whining about them and spoiling it for the rest of us free-thinking intelligent beings who understand the concept of satire and don’t always take things at face value. Sorry – pet hate.
Anyway, Thank You For Smoking (TYFS) centres on Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart - in his first lead role as far as I can tell) who’s a hated man because he spends his days promoting cancer on a stick. He’s a smarmy sweet talker, twisting ideas and propelling them right back at you. And he’s really good at it. But as the lead, we of course can’t have Nick as a total arse, otherwise the audience will never root for him. So bring in small alien-faced son, who looks up to his dad as a role model. There – now he’s more human. And Eckhart manages it – you’re convinced this guy can twist his morals enough to continue with his career, but through the loving glances at his son and very occasional facial twitch as his morals are stretched to the limit, he’s also a likeable guy.
TYFS takes a no frills approach to the Tobacco vs Health Authority battle of morals. There is no black and white. The Tobacco companies are constantly trying to find ‘no evidence’ of health risks to soil their name, and the health guys are trying to find ‘cancer kids with no hope’, to further increase their point. And maybe the tobacco guys are shown as sleazy but successful, while the health guys are weedy and a bit pathetic. Biased? Is the satire really satire, or is this film actually funded by the tobacco companies in a huge conspiracy to make smoking cool? The noticeable absence of any kind of smoking in this film dispels any such thoughts, which are pretty stupid thoughts anyway.
So, was it good? Yes. (If only reviews could be this simple. It would certainly save me, and you, lots of time.) TYFS was easy to watch, amusing, some great one liners, some great performances, some food for thought. It certainly was good, and as such it makes CF0 (which, as a reminder, means I liked it and would recommend it). But it doesn’t gain any extra points. And here’s why. First off, there were too many characters. Some, like Katie Holmes’ reporter, are vacuous and one dimensional (also, as an ex-trainee journo, I am always angered by the portrayal of reporters as evil creatures whoring themselves out for the story) and others, like Rob Lowe’s loopy Hollywood casting agent (his reply to ‘when do you sleep’ was “Sunday”) should’ve been used in more than one scene. The wry tone was sweetened a little too much for my liking by the father/son aspect, especially towards the end, and though it was pretty amusing, there were stretches where my mind wandered away from the screen and on into pretty places inside my brain. For just a 93 minute jaunt, it felt a lot longer.
But hey, that’s just me being picky. Still enjoyed it. Wasn’t blown away, but it’s good enough to get CF0 and that, surely, is something to celebrate. Perhaps with a cigarette...