Thank You For Smoking is a clever movie, which is not the same as a good movie. The script is full of satirical zingers, briskly moving through a world full of nasty people we can’t help but root for. Its pivot to an arc of moral discovery is a total, disappointing afterthought, but thankfully the rest of the movie is fun enough to still leave a pleasant menthol taste in your mouth.
The movie is elevated in equal parts by its script and its cast. There are some delightful arguments and monologues in this. Aaron Eckhart, while not outstanding as a proper actor, is at least a perfect charming slimeball, bribing and deflecting the evils of Big Tobacco with ease.
The supporting cast is simply amazing: JK Simmons as a hot-headed boss, Rob Lowe as a hotshot Hollywood producer, William H. Macy as a stammering politician, Adam Brody as a hip assistant, and so many more. You can’t go more than a scene or two without somebody fun popping up.
Katie Holmes is a minor weak link in the film as the seductress; she’s not sleazy enough to inspire either the lust or resentment really needed for a reporter who is trading sex for access. Worse yet is Cameron Bright as Eckhart’s son, a blank vessel of no charm or childlike wonder.
Jason Reitman does good work as the director, bringing energy and pep to the material. It’s never bogged down or dull, wrapping up in barely 90 minutes before it wears out its welcome. He adds a few clever touches — my favorite being that we never actually see someone smoking a cigarette for the entire film.
Thank You For Smoking is not biting or resonant or funny enough to go down as a satire classic, but it’s smart and nasty enough to be a good time.
- Review Project: 2009 Top 100
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.