Watching Thank you for Smoking (2005, Jason Reitman)
What a night, what a film - a good laugh every five minutes! (This is one of the 4 films I saw on Liffe this year.)
The film is an adapted version of a book I haven't read, so I cannot comment on how very alike the two versions are. However, the film does stand on its own and is hillarious.
We all know smoking is harmful and has long-term negative effects on health and well-being. The autor, however decided to look on the matter from a different perspective. What happens if someone gets paid to directly promote (not as in advertizing) smoking?
It is not such an irational concept. Just think about it. There are plenty of jobs in the tobacco industry, so what if someone was employed by the "big tobacco" to constantly question what other people consider as a solid truth? What if he always asked "Is your mom a researcher or a doctor?" when a little girl says her mother told her smoking is bad for your health. What if he came up with ingeniously crafted rethorical questions when someone claimed that tobacco companies are selling poison. This is what Nick Naylor (wonderful acting - very persuasive - on the part of Aaron Eckhart) does.
When people accuse the big tobacco companies of selling harmful products that could lead to premature death, he says "Why would the tobacco companies want to kill their customers?" Like all good corporations, he focuses on money. What Nick Naylor does is question what most people consider solid truths. He claims that when you question something and by questioning it proove that your opponent's claims do not hold water, you win automatically. The fact that you might also be wrong, doesn't even matter. It matters that you win and they lose.
Nick doesn't even have problems spreading this theory of his among his acquaintances (the M.O.D. - Merchants of Death - squad). In his own words: "My job requires a certain... moral flexibility." However, the situation becomes more complex, when Nick's young son, Joey, starts to accompany Nick on his business trips. Now it's not only about Nick's moral "flexiblitiy" but about the message he's sending to his son.
I have no intentions of spoiling the ending for you, so I'll stop summarizing the plot. But even if you already know what the film is about, it's a delight to watch. Partly because of Eckhart's competent acting, partly because of the humour that permeats every pore of the script. I highly recommend it as a longer break from studying, especially when you have to study on a lousy Friday night.
As an appetizer, let me introduce you to BR, Nick's boss: "People, what is going on out there? I look down this table, all I see are white flags. Our numbers are down all across the board. Teen smoking, our bread and butter, is falling like a shit from heaven! We don't sell Tic Tacs for Christ's sake. We sell cigarettes. And they're cool and available and *addictive*. The job is almost done for us!"