When you think of people who have some of the most despicable jobs on the planet, your mind probably thinks of lawyers, tax-collectors, meter-maids, and used car salesmen. Have you ever stopped to include a tobacco lobbyist? You know, those guys who still tell us that smoking doesn't cause cancer and that a multi-billion dollar industry should be allowed to kill people with a product we know is harmful. Convinced yet?
Well in the new film, Thank You for Smoking, the hero of the picture is a tobacco lobbyist named Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), who takes a lot of pride in his work as he continues to defend "Big Tobacco" from an onslaught of bad publicity. Naylor's defense against the public comes down to a consumer's right to choose.
Naylor is a charismatic, intelligent, and amazing debater, but he meets his greatest challenge in an investigative reporter named Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes). While he is being investigated by Holloway, Naylor also has to deal with the attack of the very conservative Senator Ortolan K. Finistirre (William H. Macy), who is on the warpath against Big Tobacco.
What I found amazing about this film is how the film makes you cheer for a man who defends the tobacco industry. Aaron Eckhart's performance is key to making the character of Naylor accomplish that goal and he does it with such ease. His answers and debates on why tobacco should be allowed are thought out and do cling to some of the foundations of the democratic way of life like "a right to choose" and "personal freedoms".
I really was taken in by Eckhart and loved seeing a hero with such panache and intelligence. I also really loved how there were so many in-jokes in the film and so many treasure-filled hidden meanings.
I also really enjoyed supporting performances from William H. Macy, Robert Duvall, Sam Elliot, and J.K. Simmons.
One of the problems I had was with the performance of Katie Holmes and how she fits into the whole film. I get the obvious reasons and her eventual article on Naylor, but not her chemistry with Eckhart, the character's lack of depth, and just how rudimentary she was. I guess seeing her in this reporter role reminded me some of how she was in Batman Begins. Holmes seems to have the same problems here as she did in that film, but even more so because she is supposed to be sexy, venomous, and desirable and she just isn't. It takes more than a pretty face to pull off a role like this.
Another small problem I had with the film was there are a couple of pacing issues. The film definitely has its hills and valleys.
Overall I have to praise this film for its intelligence, hidden agenda, and an amazing performance from Aaron Eckhart. This is one of the best satires in years. (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.