The issue with Thank You For Smoking is that it’s far more clever than effective, but it’s far more cute than clever. I don’t normally start out reviews with quadratic equations but I was feeling very non verbal today and thought I’d show off the other brain. Don’t worry; I’m through with that now. Was that a cute enough intro? Was it effective? Exactly, and that’s this movie’s problem in a nutshell.
Seeing V For Vendetta in the same week as this was just plain unfair. One is a master satire hitting on every level and the other is a minor leaguer dreaming of the big leagues. The film’s grade for me was really incumbent on a strong ending that never came through. My favorite part was Adam Brody by far. Crap, I just re-read this missive and I’ve forgotten the plot. Let’s take it back a notch.
The plot of Thank You For Smoking is of Aaron Eckhart as a lobbyist for big tobacco. He’s kinda sorta going through some life changes, self analyzing and all, wondering where he fits in the big picture. He’s also doing his best to be a bad ass lobbyist which usually flies right in the face of introspection. Despite a darling marketing campaign I didn’t feel like Eckhart had much chance to shine. He’s okay but others could have brought more to the role. Heck, the aforementioned Brody comes to mind on that front.
So what goes right here? Well, the concept is very fun. Smoking, Guns, Alcohol, Lobbying, sexy sexy newspaper reporters, it’s all right there for the taking. This could have been a top five film of the year based on the idea itself. Lobbying has never gotten a faithful rendering in film (has it?) so I was pretty pumped initially. Heck, it was my second most anticipated film of the year! You can imagine my dismay when this one turned out a little better than average. I guess not everything can live up to its potential, I know I haven’t. Back to the positive, I did love Katie Holmes as a conniving reporter willing to sleep around to get scoops. I can see why she used to be considered a rising star, right before she dipped into the crazy pool. We miss you Katie, come on home babe.
Ah, okay, now for the real deal (Holyfield) problems with Thank You For Smoking. It has no pay-off and it’s built on a premise with no central theme. It’s all muddled up. It’s not a merciless look at big tobacco. It’s not a coming of age tale where the lobbyist ends up learning something about himself. It’s not a cautionary tale about personal freedoms versus people’s constant need to make the wrong decisions with said freedom. It’s not about Hollywood craziness or governmental interference or complicity with the only “legal” drugs left. I know Thank You For Smoking didn’t need me to come up with what it was about but I should have at least been able to tell, right? I’m pretty bright usually. I use both brains. At the end of the day this one has one liners and cuteness galore but not much of substance to sink your teeth into. It’s okay, the world needs cute stuff too I guess.