Thank You for Smoking
Jason Reitman :: USA :: 2004 :: 1h32
Nick Naylor is the acting spokesman for Big Tobacco defending it against the sign-of-the-times cultural onslaught on cigarettes. A candid, satirical look behind the scenes in a brutal politicized big business nation, where a gifted talker defends the unpopular while still trying to be the role-model for his son.
Partly outdated and heavily American in its approach, we are presented with the ridiculous situation of a serial smoker who does not smoke on screen. In fact, nobody in the film does. On top of that curiosity, we are obliged to assume that being a spokesperson for an unpopular product is bad in itself, in the same way that a lawyer who defends a (supposed) criminal is doing a ‘bad’ thing. On accepting this presumed morality, we can proceed to the rest of the film.
As you can imagine, a hero baring a name like ‘Nick Naylor’ is going to be the best and ‘nail’ the competition into the ground. Well, indeed, he does. He gets all the best lines and sets the competition to shame. Impeccably dressed and charming all the way through, he is the emblem of the American success model, even if he is caught up in the middle of the losing battle between an authoritarian paternal state and the free-market advocates. He fights with the tools accorded to him to manipulate the masses as a contemporary sophist.
Because the film is obsessed with the immorality of his profession, consider the following quote taken as his justification of his profession: ‘99% of everything done in the world, good or bad, is done to pay a mortgage. Perhaps the world would be a better place if everyone rented.’ A funny line to say, but of course as false they get. This makes for awkward viewing as we try to decipher truths from falsehoods at breakneck speed. Removing the arguments from the movie leaves a simple sitcom father-son tale with a charming main character. But that’s not the route to take. Watch the movie for its strengths – it is really very funny. And for the sophistry? Just let it go up in smoke, while you laugh.