Friday, April 07, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

Thank You For Smoking
Written and Directed by Jason Reitman, based on the book by Christopher Buckley
Fox Searchlight

What I've seen with the black comedy these days, for the most part, is that they've taken out a lot of the malice. In general, black comedies don't do well at the box office, probably because they are considered too dark by most folks just looking for pure escapism. April 21's American Dreamz and this entry are sunny comedies with a dark underbelly, but in many ways they lose a lot of edge, comedy through anger, by being blissful instead of razor sharp.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is a tobacco lobbyist who is making appearances at various places for his cause--TV, schools, ultimately Washington. He's one of the MOD (Merchants of Death) Squad, which include alcohol defender Polly Bailey and firearms lobbyer Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner). Naylor is divorced, is trying to be a good father to his son Joey (Cameron Bright in flick #3 already this year), while battling Senator Ortolan K. Finistirre (William H. Macy) from Vermont, who wants to put skull and crossbones on cigarettes. Although his methods are sometimes frowned upon by his boss Budd (J.K. Simmons) and the tobacco baron The Captain (Robert Duvall), he gets results. The recent news draws reporter Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) into his life, a relationship which will eventually serve as a turning point.

The movie really cooks well when Naylor, in an attempt to get cigarettes back into movies as a sexy prop, visits Jeff Megall (Rob Lowe), head of EGO (get it?). Their discussion is the highlight of the film, and Adam Brody's quick scene is great, too. But there aren't a lot of those kinds of scenes. I want to go ahead and say I liked the movie quite a bit, but not as much as I thought I would. And maybe that sounds like I'm downgrading the movie based on expectation, but I did think that the movie would be a little funnier. There are good scenes scattered around that are very amusing--one involving Bailey, Bliss, and Naylor discussing whose job is more likely to make them a target of assassination, throwing around the respective death statistics of each of their products without any sensitivity. But I would have liked to have seen a lot more, especially since Reitman claims to be copying Alexander Payne (Election)--and indeed Reitman took quite a few of Payne's trusted crew, including composer Rolfe Kent, to give the movie that Payne-like feel.

Aaron Eckhart is always good, and here he gets to carry a movie for the first time. The movie might be out too early for Oscar consideration on his performance, but he deserves one. Overall, a better than average time at the movies.


At 4/08/2006 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm dead on with your thoughts on the black comedy over the past couple of years. Aaron Eckhart has already been in two of the better examples of this kind of comedy over the past decade (In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors), but even those incorporated a lot of dramatic flair that most of the classic dark comedies (Dr. Strangelove for instance)never attempted. I had a feeling this wasn't going to be all it was cracked up to be, but I'm looking forward to checking it out in the near future. It's nice to see Eckhart back to a meatier role after he floundered in shit like Erin Brokovich, The Core, and Suspect Zero in the past few years.

At 4/14/2006 08:57:00 AM, Blogger Mike said...

I came into this thinking it would be merely okay, and was pleasantly surprised. The casting was good, and Aaron Eckhart was especially good. It's far from a perfect movie, but there's enough different and intelligent about it that I enjoyed it. And at the end, when Nick Naylor basically claimed to be the hero, I was shocked. I didn't expect him, or anyone else, to be vindicated! You could almost here the anti-smoking fascists gasp in the Green Hills theater. That leads me to believe they won't even sniff an Oscar.


Post a Comment

<< Home