New York Magazine


Thank You for Smoking
  Release Date: 03/17/06 (Future Release)

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Robert Duvall, Katie Holmes, William H Macy, Adam Brody

Director: Jason Reitman

Rating: (R)
  Comedy, Drama
  Running Time
  92 min
  Fox Searchlight
Official Website
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As the son of William F., the humorist Christopher Buckley evidently can’t bring himself to endorse the “politically correct,” but he’s big enough to admit that maybe cigarettes do give people cancer and ease of access to guns might have its downside. The upshot is his ironic novel Thank You for Smoking, with its stylishly amoral protagonist, Nick Naylor, a virtuoso spinmeister for Big Tobacco. In the grand libertarian tradition, Buckley admires Nick (and his comrades in the firearm, junk-food, and alcohol industries) for bearing the slings and arrows of the moralistic liberal media. And while Nick has enough stature to be mildly abashed by what he does, Buckley reserves his real contempt for meddlesome big government in the form of a crusading anti-smoking senator (played in the film by William H. Macy) who is not only a bantamweight opportunist but has no élan, no joie de vivre.

Whatever his politics, Buckley is archly amusing and light on his feet. The young director Jason Reitman (another son—of Ivan), who adapted the novel, is arch and leaden. To work onscreen, Thank You for Smoking needed to be fast, scruffy, and offhand. But even the good lines here last a self-congratulatory beat too long. Aaron Eckhart is likable, but he’s too hangdog and naturalistic for a part that could have used a brisk young Jack Lemmon type. (As a reporter who uses her big, rapt eyes and hot bod to tease out his secrets, Katie Holmes has more of a chance to cut loose.) The scenes that should set the movie’s tone, Nick’s leisurely lunches with the mod Squad—a.k.a. the Merchants of Death, played by Maria Bello (alcohol lobbyist) and David Koechner (gun lobbyist)—are visually dead. (You mainly see Bello in profile.) Reitman and his cinematographer, James Whitaker, have come up with a peculiar yellowish, overexposed look that doesn’t fit the material—unless it’s meant to suggest how tobacco leaves one’s lungs, which I somehow doubt.— Reviewed by David Edelstein, New York Magazine