Jason Reitman's satirical take on the tobacco industry came before he hit big with Juno, it also came before Aaron Eckhart's rise to fame in The Dark Knight. Thank You for Smoking is a witty film driven by Eckhart's charismatic character and a well written script.
Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, lobbyist for the big smoking companies. Thank You for Smoking follows him through a particular section of his life. Nick is comfortable speaking on behalf of cigarettes, and he takes his job seriously. While fighting off the press and an angry senator from Vermont (William H. Macy), Nick also is trying to raise his son properly.
The entire plot is tackled by Reitman as a satire on Washington politics and it makes a big joke of the smoking problem in America. For example, in one scene Nick Naylor goes to his son's 'Career Day' at the school where he tells a class of kids that they shouldn't listen to their teacher, and that they should try things (like smoking) before making judgments about them. The whole movie plays out in this way, making jokes about something that isn't all that funny. The movie does have some heart, the relationship between Nick and his son is complex and develops throughout the movie.
Aaron Eckhart is a great public speaker, or at least he can play a good public speaker. His character Nick Naylor is great at making up an argument on the spot, or at least at spinning the conversation in such a way that he isn’t wrong. Nick is also part of a certain social group who call themselves the ‘Merchants of Death’. This group consists of Nick and his two friends who are lobbyists for Alcohol and Guns. The ‘Merchants of Death’ represent the industries that are frowned upon the most in America. In Thank You for Smoking, these industries are represented in a different light by humanizing their spokespeople. This film definitely doesn’t support smoking, far from it, but it does show both sides to the story, and how an argument can look from the other side.
Thank You for Smoking is witty, clever and entertaining in its well written dialogue and its interesting take on the tobacco industry. The film’s protagonist advocates smoking, yet through a mixture of satirical and serious events, we get the overall idea of how bad smoking actually is for you. The movie also pokes fun at how an argument can be spun any way, for example when Nick Naylor is kidnapped in a van for a few hours, this later helps his company by giving them sympathetic support. Overall Thank You for Smoking is definitely worth watching at some point, and it hinted towards both Eckhart and Reitman having promising careers after this film.