So last week I finally got around to watching “Thank You For Smoking“, the satirical 2005 film about the tobacco industry and its efforts to lobby Congress and the public about its products. Not being familiar with the source material, I at first didn’t realize that it was set before the massive settlements between cigarette companies and the government; once that became apparent, I kept waiting for Russell Crowe to appear in the background to leak secret industry documents to intrepid reporters. Instead Aaron Eckhart (in a great performance that manages to make his smooth lobbyist character, Nick Naylor, not come across as smarmy) sleeps with an intrepid reporter, but that’s okay, too.
The film is frequently quite funny, especially in scenes where Nick hangs out at a restaurant with his colleagues in other heavily regulated industries (alcohol and firearms) to compare notes about how much they are despised relative to each other — sort of like “Diner” only with lobbyists instead of young adults. It also features one of the more amusing kidnapping/attempted murder scenes that I’ve seen since, say, “A Shock to the System” way back in 1988, and I enjoyed watching Nick explain to his son how argument works, and how the person you’re trying to convince is not always the person you’re arguing with. However, the satire sometimes fell a bit short, and I didn’t find the climactic scene of Nick’s testimony before a hostile Senate panel as convincing or as brilliant as the characters in the movie apparently did. I got the sense of punches being pulled rather than landing at full force on their targets. Still, even if the movie didn’t achieve the satirical heights of classics like “Dr. Strangelove” and “American Psycho” (I’m serious — I loved that movie!), I was never bored with it.
“Thank You For Smoking” didn’t put my wife to sleep, exactly, but she sort of nodded off after 30 minutes or so. Early on she said something to the effect of she was surprised I was watching TYFS when nothing was blowing up; perhaps that was a subtle hint that she wanted me to put on “Transformers 2”, but I doubt it.
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