Apr 25, 2006
Jason Reitman's satirical comedy follows the work of its lead character, Nick Naylor, a talented spokesman for big tobacco. Nick possesses an extraordinary ability to twist the truth and to do so with style. As he teaches his young son: “If you argue correctly, you're never wrong.”
Thank you for Smoking is a clever, tongue-in-cheek examination of the ways Americans are manipulated using the tools and messages of mass media. This topic comes filtered through Nick's politically incorrect (and refreshingly honest) voice-over commentary. In the end, this combination produces ridiculous results, like a talk show audience convinced that the tobacco companies want to keep a sick teen alive, dubbed “cancer boy,” in order to sell him more cigarettes.
Some of the film's content is morally troubling, primarily its finale, which champions a false notion of freedom. Nick ultimately wins sympathy for big tobacco by convincing people not that cigarettes are harmless but that mature individuals should be free to take that risk if they so choose. Not a particularly Thomistic conclusion, but a thoroughly American one.
I found Thank you for Smoking as thought-provoking as it is hysterical, but due to some of its troublesome content, I can only recommend it for adult audiences. Specifically, Nick's fling with an investigative reporter is somewhat graphic and ends with insults that are offensive to women. Overall, I am glad to see a film in theaters today that demonstrates the influence of communications media while refusing to take itself too seriously.