Thank You for Smoking, debut feature for writer/director Jason Reitman, is based upon a 1994 satirical novel by Christopher Buckley. In a dozen years, the material hasn’t dated a minute. The subject is "spin," the ever more sophisticated ways in which lobbyists and propagandists influence news stories and other media to put their causes or products in the most favorable light.
The film centers on Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), a spokesperson for the bogus "Academy of Tobacco Studies," a research institute financed by the tobacco industry. Naylor is on the job 24/7 — even when his own son asks him, "Why does our country have the best government in the world?" he quickly snaps back, "the system of endless appeals," which. of course, big corporations use to attempt to crush liability lawsuits.
William H. Macy (The Cooler, Door to Door) plays a Birkenstock-wearing, anti-tobacco crusading Senator from Vermont who wants to put a large skull and crossbones image on every pack of cigarettes. Naylor, of course, is ready with counter arguments, largely based on attacking other dangers (such as the cholesterol in Vermont cheese) rather than trying to defend the 1,200 tobacco related deaths per day in the United States.
Meanwhile, ambitious (and equally unprincipled) journalist Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) is writing a major story on Naylor. "Why do you really do this?" she asks him. "Population control," he snaps back facetiously. And in a very funny meeting with Hollywood agent Jeff Megall (Rob Lowe), Naylor and Lowe make plans for a high priced product placement–post-coital lighting up in a space ship scene.
Naylor regularly lunches with his counterparts from the alcohol and gun lobbies (wonderful Maria Bello underutilized once again), providing more fodder for witty jabs. Eckhart (Suspect Zero, Paycheck), demonstrates genuine comic talent here, drawing laughs with a sharp satirical edge that Reitman’s script and direction keep spot on. And Reitman, unlike so many of today’s ego-inflated directors, keeps his film to a tight, well-edited hour and a half.