Directed by: Jason Reitman
Premise: Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) falls into an ethical crisis as he attempts to resolve conflicts between his responsibilities to his employer and his role modeling duties to his son.
What Works: Thank You For Smoking is a fun and satirical look at a character most would despise. Eckhart’s performance works because he is able to find the empathetic elements of this despicable character and uses a Mephistopheles-like wit, charm, and intelligence. The dialogue is really sharp and the film uses lots of formalistic, non-diegetic elements that add to the sense of fun in the film. In terms of story design, Thank You for Smoking works very well. The characters, and there are many in the film, are balanced in their screen time. The film follows a redemption plotline, but it takes unexpected turns that are character-based and the film is able to come to a satisfying conclusion.
What Doesn’t: Anti-smoking lobbyists who don’t have a sense of humor may react negatively to the film. Some viewers may find the presentation of an antihero problematic because, while the character faces an ethical conflict, he is not actually changed in the end but rather has achieved consciousness. This is the point of the film, but some may find fault with it.
Bottom Line: Thank You for Smoking is a great comedy, in large part because it has a very palatable dramatic center. It is all around a very satisfying film that does actually have something to say. It will be challenging to some viewers but that is part of what is so satisfying about the film.
Episode: #100 (June 11, 2006)