WEEKEND CLASSICS: THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (Jason Reitman, 2006)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
February 24-26, 11:00 am
Series continues weekends through April 2
Jason Reitman, the son of producer-director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters, Dave), made his sparkling feature-film debut with the brilliant Thank You for Smoking, a devilishly delightful black comedy based on the novel by acerbic wit Christopher Buckley. Aaron Eckhart gives a riotous performance as Nick Naylor, a fast-talking, handsome, smarmy lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, a Big Tobacco laboratory that, remarkably, cannot find a link between cigarettes and health risks. A master of spin, Naylor seems to even believe himself when he tells a young boy dying of cancer that he’s better off smoking. As a grandstanding senator (William H. Macy) plans congressional hearings on the evils of tobacco — especially on teenagers — Naylor is being groomed as the industry’s savior by his high-strung boss (J. K. Simmons) and the Captain (Robert Duvall) while trying to establish a meaningful relationship with his son (Cameron Bright). The fine ensemble also features Katie Holmes as a hot young reporter who’ll go to virtually any length to get a story; Sam Elliott as the Marlboro Man, who is dying of lung cancer; Rob Lowe as a Zen-like Hollywood agent who is considering Naylor’s idea of making cigarette smoking cool in the movies again; and Dennis Miller and Joan Lunden as themselves, adding a bit of reality to the hysterical situation, which might not be as far off from the truth as we might think, especially with President Donald Trump recently promising to enact a ban preventing administration members from becoming lobbyists for five years after they leave government service.
Among the funniest scenes in this wicked film are Naylor’s weekly meetings with the M.O.D. Squad (the Merchants of Death), as the lobbyists for the alcohol (Maria Bello), tobacco (Eckhart), and firearms (David Koechner) industries playfully call themselves. The film is produced by David O. Sacks, who amassed his fortune when he sold his Internet baby, PayPal, to eBay in 2002 and headed straight for Hollywood. Sacks also makes a cameo as an oil lobbyist. The talented Reitman has gone on to make such films as Juno and Up in the Air, earning himself two Oscar nominations for Best Director. Thank You for Smoking is screening in a 35mm print February 24-26 at 11:00 am in the IFC Center Weekend Classics series “Autocratic for the People: An Unpresidented Series of Star-Spangled Satires,” which continues through April 2 with such other political mockeries, parodies, spoofs, and lampoons as Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog, and Andrew Fleming’s Dick.