Thank You For Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005)

06Sep10

Aaron Eckhart (Nick Naylor), Cameron Bright (Joey Naylor), J. K. Simmons (BR), Robert Duvall (Captain), Katie Holmes (Heather Holloway). Screenplay by Jason Reitman. Directed by Jason Reitman. Rating: 15. Running time: 92 minutes.

Reitman’s debut effort that looks like it set the tone for his career, Thank You For Smoking succeeds in making a mockery of big tobacco PR campaigns intent on ensuring the American public continues to light up on their way to an early grave. Their main spinster and Washington lobbyist is Nick Naylor, a divorced single father who’s pretty good at his official job, even if it puts strain on his more personal one of part-raising a son. He plans, amongst other things, the funding of a film to include a love-making scene between Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta, which is shortly followed by Brad reaching for a cigarette and blowing smoke circles into the air. The purpose is to neutralise any losses caused by a ruthless Senator, who’s on the legislative hunt for enforcing poison signs on fag packets, and, very amusingly, rewriting cinematic history by editing photos of Bogart, Audrey and co. to look elegant holding less contentious objects like cups of tea and candy sticks. The film is kind of what Michael Mann’s The Insider would look like if it had a sense of humour and wanted to be less heavy. Indeed, the featherlight feel is a feature of Reitman’s films that always ensures they never feel too preachy or pretentious, regardless of their consistently important content. There are lots of similarities to Up In The Air to be noted here – Naylor lives as casually as Bingham, and when embodied by Eckhart he almost pulls off as many laughs as Clooney. There’s also the fact that, like how Bingham’s firing company looks to ‘seize the moment’ and gets all excited over the recession, Naylor and his bosses never stop boasting about how many people they ‘kill’ and how they need to make sure it continues. As I say, this was just the start, but it reaffirms what I had deduced from Up In The Air and Juno: Reitman is the stand-out director slowly emerging from Hollywood, and he’s not even 35 yet. Quite an exciting future awaits.

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