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Heroes of the Zeroes: Thank You for Smoking

by on October 26, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Thank You For Smoking”
Rated R

In his riotous 2005 satire on dizzying PR spin, writer-director Jason Reitman didn’t just fire killshots at paper targets for 90 minutes. He ran a deeply grounded story of a father-son relationship in tandem with brightly colored comic exaggeration.

Reitman also punched up Christopher Buckley’s buckshot prose to include invigorating ideas (surprisingly similar to, of all films, “The Incredibles”) and a deeply drawn, fascinatingly flawed protagonist.

Sure, Aaron Eckhart’s Big Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor possesses the same ironsides jaw, shit-eating grin and even haircut that shouts smug as amoral Chad in “In the Company of Men.” But Nick’s virility and vulnerability proved equally engaging.

Nick has been targeted by a pack of politicians pushing a bill to place the word “poison” with a skull-and-crossbones emblem on all cigarette packaging. All of this while tussling with a vain Hollywood producer, soothing a Marlboro Man turned anti-tobacco activist, tolerating a piggish duplicitous boss and falling into bed with a comely investigative reporter.

Despite the decrepitude of the industry for which Nick works, he uses it to instill in his preteen son Joey the importance of independent, informed opinion and arguing it when necessary.

Reitman carefully never confuses Nick’s good, sensible parenting with big-speech heroics; as important to Nick that his ideas are correct are the vocal rights of those with whom he disagrees.

At the heart of “Smoking” was the idea of believing in your life’s work and excelling through personal responsibility. Now that was a comic breath of fresh air.