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Posts Tagged ‘mechants of death’

Disclaimer: Two back to back reviews of Jason Reitman’s films is a mere coincidence (facilitated by the purchase of a brand new DVD player) and not a premeditated act. The reviewer, any one in her immediate family or her pet cat, are not being paid, in cash or kind, by Reitman. The reviewer claims, in her defense, that she didn’t know Thank You for Smoking was Reitman film. It had been lying with her for the longest time and the only reason it didn’t get viewed (and reviewed) earlier was its advanced format, a format the reviewer’s former, antediluvian player pouted at.

Thank You for Smoking is a satirical look at the intrigues of the PR Machinery of Big Tobacco. The story is that of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), the spokesperson for Big Tobacco. Naylor is a glib spin doctor whose arsenal consists of four words  –  convince, confuse, deflect, bribe, and he uses them effectively.

Hell, he can make anti – tobacco lobbyists look bad while sitting next to a lung cancer patient with all the outward and pity inducing symptoms – bald pate, wheelchair bound, stick thin, sallow complexion – of the vitiating disease. The scene where he goes to his son’s school to give a talk on his job and almost gets booted out for telling seventh graders that smoking isn’t bad is too funny.

In his own words, Naylor’s job is ‘to talk’ and he does that tirelessly. He spins and spins and spins. All the time. He has few friends and none outside his line of work. The two friends that he has are all from his line of work, i.e., spin doctors for Big Gun and Big Alcohol, or, as they, self-deprecatingly call themselves, Merchants of Death. They meet regularly to vent and bitch about do-gooders.

The only genuine relationship he has is with his son which is one of mutual love and respect.

Naylor is Now conflict enters his life from various sources. A senator from Vermont, Finnistre (William Macy) is threatening to go more graphic about the warning labels on cigarette packets and the Marlboro Man is threatening to lash out at Big Tobacco for giving him cancer and teen smoking (Big Tobacco’s bread and butter) is at an all time low.

No problem. Naylor has the fix for all. However, all the good work Naylor’s done threatens to come to nought when a sexy reporter (Katie Holmes) seduces him into spilling all and a bunch of anti-tobacco lunatics kidnap and poison him with nicotine patches. Things come to when he has to make a choice about his son’s future.

The story is as much about how Naylor goes about solving these problems as about his relationship with his precocious son whom he takes along with him everywhere.

The film is hysterical. The characters are all stereotypes. All the characters are caricatures. Special mention to Rob Lowe’s Hollywood Superagent and Robert Duvall’s’ smoke-till-I-die Big Tobacco chief. There are no ‘deep’ moments, and yet it is extremely effective anti smoking film. Yes, don’t let the title fool ya. The film works because there is no preaching of any kind – subtle or overt. Everyone gets their ass taken and nobody on either side of tobacco fence gets spared.

It is not Reitman’s best film – amongst the three films I’ve seen, I would rate it after Up in the Air and Juno. But even Reitman’s worst (and debut) effort is right up there with the best of the industry.

Statutory warning: This film kills with laughter.

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