Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

Drink, Guns and Smoke Make Interesting Bedfellows!

I was attracted to the movie because of its title - Thank You for Smoking. It's not politically correct - where's the "not"? And the trailer looked like it was a whole lot of fun as well, with a tobacco evangelist spreading the good news about smoking and cigarettes. Coincidentally, this movie also turned out to be this week's GV Surprise Screening selection.

I like movies with ensemble cast too, and this one consisted of Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Sam Elliot, Rob Lowe, William H Macy, JK Simmons, Robert Duvall, Katie Holmes and Cameron Bright. Not the usual big names, but a stellar cast nonetheless, some of whom you would've come across in other big budgeted movies, like JK Simmons - the James Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spidey, or Cameron Bright - the most over-under utilized kid from Ultraviolet and X3.

The opening credits played to the song "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette!", consisting of colourful cigarette boxes, already got me hooked, and the protagonist of Nick Naylor (Eckhart), the tobacco industry lobbyist, is one heck of an interesting character, and holds one heck of a dream job. He's not a lawyer, but can sure talk like one, and has the same uncanny ability to turn black into white with his wit and persuasion.

There are plenty of witty lines and dialogue in this movie, played out with some cheese and infused with comedy at the right moments. My favourite moments are those in which Nick teaches his son Joey (Bright) how to win arguments, which he's the best at the business at. About the flawed but sounds-so-sexily correct logic which is employed to break down the arguments of another.

He has few friends, since anti-smoking lobbyists are a dime a dozen, and counts amongst his circle of trust, the Mod Squad, consisting of fellow spin doctors from the Alcohol and Firearms industry (Maria Bello and David Koechner respectively). Their chill out get together dinner sessions are a hoot to watch, as they go about sharing ideas, spinning techniques, and rant about their collective enemies.

If there's a lesson to take away from this picture, it's not to sleep and tell, especially if the reporter has glorious tits, in the mould of Katie Holmes. Bent on exposing the slickest in the business, you thought that Nick would be beaten down with a scandal. But as they say, it's always tough to keep a good man down! Besides the romantic entanglement, there's a little sub plot about office politics, like having a "leaning mountain" in the form of your boss's boss, and the trouble that will inevitably knock on your door when he's no longer around. Compelling stuff.

In a movie which seemed to be pro-tobacco, you'd be surprised that NONE of the characters actually light up on screen! The closest we got to was from a movie "Sands of Iwo Jima" shown on television, but he got shot when he was distributing ciggies to his mates. How's that for irony? And I have no idea why the local rating is M18 for sexual references. Sure there was sex, but you can't see a thing, and it got truncated badly anyway. Why can't the censors get straight to the point that it's M18 - Pro-Cigarette movie, which would align with local laws that cigarettes cannot be sold to those under 18 years of age? One wonders.

Then again, as addressed in the movie, I liked the part where there was a commotion over the effectiveness of having horrible pictures of death printed on the cigarette boxes. You must watch and see if you agree with the arguments presented. But the bottom line is, it's all about choice. Everyone, unless you're extremely ignorant, should already be aware of the dangers. If you want to, go ahead. If not, that's fine too.

Now where's my cigarette? (should I, too, stick an M18 warning or attach some grotesque pictures? :P)

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