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The One-Line Summary: Smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) spends all his time defending the industry on TV and classrooms, promoting personal choice over more labels and even resorting to bribery to keep bad press out of the public eye until he has a torrid affair with a young journalist named Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) who publishes information he said in confidence that ruins his reputation and eventually gets him fired.
The Two-Line Blurb: Deeply cynical and heavily satirical, Thank You For Smoking is a face-paced very funny film directed by Jason Reitman that never tries to align itself too closely with any argument, deciding to remain darkly neutral as we come to see a bit of the inside machinations of the tobacco marketing world and the people inside. Eckhart is effortlessly charming and well-cast as the lead and is picture-perfect in the role, gaining sympathy when needed and winning us over as his arc brings him full circle on the heated topic, while realizing that it might not be the cause but the need to talk that motivates him most.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is about money and endorsements, which is what Naylor is all about as he tries to improve the image of smoking and get people to think of cigarettes in a less grim light. Naylor has some rather interesting friends, whom he meets often, including firearm lobbyist Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner) and alcohol lobbyist Polly Bailey (Maria Bello), who jokingly call themselves the “Merchants of Death” or “The MOD Squad”. Toward the beginning of the film, we see Naylor at his slickest best, never wavering, always twisting, and forever coming out on top, searching for ways to change public perceptions.
The Four-Line Moment: That all bring him to Hollywood where he has a meeting with Jeff Megal (Rob Lowe), a power agent who specializes in product placement and has a project that is looking for some financing. Naylor questions him about the health issues, but Megal retorts that his job is not to be a doctor but a facilitator where his products let people decide on their own, which inspires Naylor. Megal pitches an idea where in the future, when smokers and non-smokers live in harmony, a hero-type is seen smoking in a space station, to which Naylor rightly brings up the dangers of fire in a pure oxygen environment. Megal’s response is quick and hilarious and also perfectly encapsulates the mentality behind the Hollywood scriptwriting process and priority of product over logic.
The Five-Word Review: Underrated comedy gem worth watching.