Thank You For Smoking is based on the 1994 novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley. It follows the schemes of Big Tobacco’s chief spokesman, Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), who twists the truth on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son, Joey (Cameron Bright).
It is, essentially, a clever, humorous and effervescent satirical comedy. Plainly it provides a host of fascinating truths about the tobacco dispute – some of them true, some of them false – sugar-coating and simplifying them to appeal to our emotions. Jason Reitman’s direction is rapid, enlightened, and irrefutable; his writing overflowing with ripe, razor-sharp dialogue, one-liners and tantalising characters.
Eckhart is simply outstanding as Nick, the Vice President of the Academy of Tobacco Studies, an organisation that studies the effects of smoking on the nation’s health. He plays the character with an almost effortless level of charm and incredible versatility, delivering Nick’s lines with an arrogant, yet loveable nature. In one scene we’ll be admiring his candidness and, in the next, we’ll accept him as the devoted father-figure.
The structure, at times, seems a little dismayed, and the investigation into the tobacco industry feels somewhat rudimentary, but these are minor issues, ones that only slightly detract from the overall enjoyment. That said, Eckhart and the entire supporting cast – in particular J.K Simmons, who delivers his lines like he’s only vaguely grasped their meaning and accuracy – each deliver equally measured, good-humoured performances, bringing an astounding sense of believability to their respective characters and, in turn, the whole film.
Thank You For Not Smoking, trivial flaws aside, is an assured, witty and intelligent debut from writer-director Jason Reitman, with an exuberant, stand-out performance from Eckhart.