Tuesday, June 13, 2006

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING - brilliantly biting satire

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is a hysterical satire on corporate spin-doctors, political correctness and Hollywood. It is an intelligent, adult comedy and the funniest movie I have seen since GRIZZLY MAN. If you like your humour dark and twisted then this is the flick for you, for while it may teeter on the brink of saccharine in the final five, it manages to stay on the right side of the divide.

The concept is brilliant. Our hero is a corporate spin-doctor for Big Tobacco called Nick Naylor. Nick hangs out with his chums who defend Alcohol and Firearms respectively. He promotes cigarettes because he is good at it and he has a mortgage to pay. Okay, Nick may feel bad when he has to give the real-life Marlboro Man a cool million to shut up about his cancer, but at the end of the day, Nick still gets an adrenaline rush from knowing precisely which buttons to press to get him to keep the phat cash. The genius of the script is that our hero is not an amoral aberration but by far the most sane and endearing man in a system that is full of hypocrisy and grand-standing. From puffed-up Senators to professional campaigners to journalists - everyone is in it up to their eye-balls.

For example, a good chunk of the movie features Nick trying to broker a deal with a major Hollywood agent to get stars smoking on screen again. This is, for me, by far the funniest strand of the movie, and its clear that writer-director Jason Reitman knows whereof he takes the piss. I love the spoof of the Japanese-style office building. I loved Adam Brody as the hipper-than-hip, personal assistant, and I thought that casting Rob Lowe as the evil agent was a master-stroke. In fact, Rob Lowe could well replace Alec Baldwin as my all-time favourite sleazy cameo actor. But then this is a cast chock-full of brilliant actors: Aaron Eckhart,
Maria Bello, David Koechner, William.H.Macy, Cameron Bright, Sam Elliott and Robert Duvall.

In fairness, this movie isn't perfect. Toward the end, there is a suspicion that it is slightly pulling its punches. But for political satire it's either this or TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE. And, to my mind, while TEAM AMERICA has the songs, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING has Katie Holmes suffering nationwide humiliation! Go see it.

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING showed at Toronto 2005 and was released in the US in April. It is currently on release in the UK and hits Austria on July 28th, Germany on August 31st and France on September 13th.

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