THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (2006) TEN, 10.45PM, M, COMEDY
Thank You for Smoking is a breath of fresh air. It’s an American satire worthy of the title. Like Election and Wag The Dog before it, Jason Reitman’s comedy pokes fun at politics, lobbyists, the media and even Hollywood itself, while deftly avoiding the problems that plague so many American comedies: pulling punches and sentimentality. No chance of that here. This is an addictive laughfest that’ll leave you gasping for more. Smoking focuses on tobacco industry lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), a quick-thinking, smart-mouthed guy who’s paid to defend the indefensible: cancer sticks. Watching him twist logic and turn his detractors’ arguments in on themselves is a hoot. Eckhart is the perfect fit. He has the sort of devil-may-care, trust-me-if-youdare smile that is irresistible. He’s a rogue, for sure, but a lovable one. But he does have a conscience, of sorts. His 12-year-old son (Cameron Bright) adores his old man and shows promise of following in his footsteps. Naylor is only too aware that he’s hated, but he does have friends. He shares regular meals with two other pariahs, lobbyists for alcohol (Maria Bello) and firearms (J.K. Simmons). Together they are the MOD squad (merchants of death) and spend their time comparing notes or bickering over whose product kills the most. The writers love anagrams. Apart from the MOD squad, there’s a Hollywood agent (Rob Lowe) who runs Entertainment Global Organisation and Simmons fronts a pro-gun group called SAFETY. These are obvious jokes, but the script has many more clever and subtle highlights, which are best left for you to discover for yourself. In the hands of such an accomplished cast, the result is spot-on. William H. Macy plays a zealous senator on an anti-smoking crusade, Robert Duvall does a good ol’ job as a tobacco baron, and Adam Brody is hilarious as Lowe’s assistant. Katie Holmes pops up as a reporter willing to do anything to get a story. As comedies go, Smoking is addictive (a bit like bad puns, come to think of it). ★★★★
Necessary evil: Aaron Eckhart goes against the grain in Thank YouForSmoking.