A smart satire about corporate spin culture provides much objectivity and wit from Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) regarding the tobacco industry.
Those "delivery devices of nicotine" never is what audiences want to hear people talking about in the movies, but Thank You for Smoking sharply skewers the subject. The younger Reitman obviously has been around plenty of sets and has seen a lot of actors growing up in a filmic environment and it shows here in the presentation and the casting.
Aaron Eckhart, trying to erase the displeasure of headlining Suspect Zero, is clearly in his element as lobbyist Nick Naylor. Nick shrewdly supports this deadly industry in a way that would inspire students to debate class. He works for slick, smarmy imperious types like BR (J.K. Simmons) and tobacco czar Captain (Robert Duvall). William H. Macy is at home as the manipulative anti-smoking Birkenstock-wearing Vermont Senator Finistirre who defends his state's famous high-cholestrol product, cheddar cheese.
Naylor's D.C. man gets together every week with other lobbyists who form the "M.O.D." squad. Frequent drinker Polly Bailey (Maria Bello - Assault on Precinct 13) and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner) represent alcohol and guns, respectively.
The narrative, probably toned down somewhat from Christopher Buckley's novel, has Nick getting involved with ambitious reporter (Katie Holmes of Batman Begins). He's being profiled in the Post by Holmes' Heather, not listening closely to the words of his fellow lobbyists about her.
The dialogue makes a case for the basis of solid argumentative action and unabashed self-interests. In Nick's case the smooth talking he does beyond PR will get him in trouble.
Rob Lowe has a nice extended cameo as an egoistic Japanese-fixated Hollywood superagent, Jeff Megall, working on tobacco financing for a movie starring Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Naylor and Meagall brainstorm product placement to wry effect centering around lighting up in space.
While charismatic in its zealous, telegenic manners, Thank You for Smoking still isn't as audacious as some may wish. Eckhart's calculating, silver-tongued, media-savvy "Q" guy also confronts his ethical side, especially when it concerns his 12-year-old son Joey (Cameron Bright of Birth, Running Scared) who really puts his dad on a pedestal. His parenting by taking Joey out to Los Angeles with him isn't advocated by ex-wife Jill (Kim Dickens).
This spry, rather snappy imaging of "self-imposed death" is an auspicious start for Reitman with crossover potential. Yet, even The Insider wasn't addictive at all for filmgoers, in spite of compelling work from all involved, especially the Big Tobacco whistleblower, played by Russell Crowe. This even-handed satire has a pride about it that's hard to resist, and with neat opening credits and fine support from Sam Elliott and Adam Brody, it's doesn't feel wrong.