Monday, May 01, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

Jason Reitman's directorial debut, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley, is the media satire Thank You for Smoking. Starring Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, a man who has turned spinning news and information into a successful career for the tobacco lobby, the film mines the fertile land between politically-pointed entertainment and edifying-yet-smarmy documentary. Though ripe with potential, given the sucess of films as divergent as those of Michael Moore and the likes of the singularly genius The Corporation, this one failed to hold my interest despite a interesting cast and nearly-clever storyline.

There are a number of highlights however, including an honest performance by child actor Cameron Bright as Naylor's wide-eyed son. There's also a brilliant sequence where Nick is kidnapped and bound by a vigilante group who attaches hundreds of nicotine patches to his body in an attempt to draw public attention to the horrors of cigarette dependence. The rest of the film's plot-line pales in comparison. Strong performances by William H. Macy as a Senator who runs a anti-tobacco campaign (and reminds me a little too much his stellar role as Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo), Robert Duvall as the king of big tobacco, and Sam Elliott as the Marlboro Man, really take this picture from monotony to genuine entertainment. But Eckhart's performance is too scattershot to be believable (I'd rather believe Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman from American Psycho in this role), and Katie Holmes is far too immature to lend creedence to her role as a smart young reporter getting the best of her elusive subject. It's a shame that such a great book couldn't get a better film.

Did I mention that Jason Reitman's father directed Ghostbusters?
I wonder if that helps.

3 out of 5 stars


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