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Thank You for Smoking


By Harry Forbes - Catholic News Service

 
Thank You for Smoking
Aaron Eckhart stars in a scene from the movie "Thank You for Smoking." The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Fox Searchlight)


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NEW YORK (CNS) -- Yes, you've got that title right. Thank you "for" smoking!

In tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor's (Aaron Eckhart) world, that's the message he must convey at all times and at all costs, even when appearing on a popular talk show with a doleful young cancer victim. But in Nick's ever-so-smooth hands, he soon has the hostile studio audience utterly believing that his industry cares for nothing more than the boy's recovery.

"Thank You for Smoking" (Fox Searchlight) is a trenchant black comedy based on Christopher Buckley's 1994 novel, which purports to show the ends to which the multibillion-dollar business will go to keep the public buying their carcinogenic product.

Nick toils, under the encouraging eye of boss "BR" (J.K. Simmons) at the "Academy of Tobacco Studies" and the industry bigwig known as "the Captain" (Robert Duvall).

Throughout the movie, Nick masterfully manipulates all obstacles in his path. From the aforementioned talk show hosts (Joan Lunden and later Dennis Miller), to an anti-smoking Vermont senator (William H. Macy) who's determined to put a skull and crossbones on every cigarette packet (and is not above using some spin techniques himself), and a Hollywood agent (Rob Lowe), whom Nick must convince to finagle a glamorous smoking scene into the latest Brad Pitt-Catherine Zeta-Jones epic. There's a funny turn by Adam Brody as the agent's gung-ho assistant.

Nick keeps company with an ad hoc group, self-deprecatingly dubbed "The Merchants of Death," which include lobbyists for the alcohol and guns, Polly Bailey (Maria Bello) and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner) respectively.

Nick's tactics are awesomely slick, and he's all too happy to share his triumphs with an investigative reporter (Katie Holmes) from the "Washington Probe." Before long, their relationship morphs into intimacy.

Meanwhile, his young son Joey (Cameron Bright) is in awe of his super dad, and talks his mom (Kim Dickens), separated from Nick and living with doctor Brad (Daniel Travis), into accompanying Nick to California where, besides meeting with the super-agent, they visit a dying embittered former Marlboro man (Sam Elliott) to whom Nick must bring a suitcase full of hush money.

It seems Nick can do no wrong, until his perfectly controlled spin-doctoring spins out of control.

Writer-director Jason Reitman's satire is consistently amusing and acted with just the right seriocomic style. He manages to sustain the comedy -- nicely underplayed -- without really losing sight of the grave issues at hand. Picture Christopher Guest melded with Michael Moore.

Besides Eckhart's spectacular performance, everyone else in the cast is right on the money, and that's not just blowing smoke.

The film contains much rough and crude language and expressions, a couple of sexual encounters with no nudity and sexual banter, and an irreligious remark. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Forbes is director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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CLASSIFICATION

"Thank You for Smoking" (Fox Searchlight) -- USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification, L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Motion Picture Association of America rating, R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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