Adapted from a 1994 novel "Thank You For Smoking" which in a rare instance of common sense the studio haven't changed( Incidentally why do they adapt novels into films and then change the title?) this movie like that novel is a satire that actually possesses a cutting edge. In fact it's so sharp it should qualify under the dangerous weapons act.
The film is essentially about how if someone doctors the truths, or more pertinently lies so well that he/she begins to believe the lies, that they convince other people that their version of the truth is the truth even though it's fundamentally a lie and maybe that the other guy is not only wrong but is the one telling the lies even though he/she is probably telling the truth. It's called spin doctoring and the fact that the source novel was written just before the coming to power of the Labour Government, spin doctors so fiendish they make Shane Warne look like Ashley Giles, is so prescient it's downright spooky. The film of course is set amongst the tobacco lobbyists of America and is brought forward to the present day but otherwise director Jason Reitman has pretty much left the source novel unaltered.
Set in Washington the movie sees Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor( Aaron Eckhart) who is the spokesman for the grandly titled "Academy of Tobacco Studies "and whose job it is to counter all the health organisations , particaully "The American Lung Association " with counters-studies, double speak and gross perversions of the truth so people keep buying the cancer sticks.
Nick is very good at this and has no compunction about the fact that he targets teenagers as customers because "Get em young and you got em for life". However his life gets more complicated when he starts dating a newspaper reporter Heather Holloway ( Katie Holmes) who is working on a story about him which complicates thing with his 12 years old son (Cameron Bright) Then Senator Ortolan Finistirre ( William H Macy) introduces a bill that would mean every pack of cigarettes would contain a warning label of a skull and crossbones and the word "Poison" in large black letters while Nick is trying to obtain some product placement in a new movie with an unhinged producer ( Rob Lowe).
Full of great lines and a redemptive story arc that is actually believable the films greatest triumph is in the casting which is flawless for virtually every role. Anyone who has seen Aaron Eckhart in the film "The Company Of Men" will know he can play charming duplicitous charismatic schemers superbly and he is perfect as the quick firing Nick. Even the normally bland Katie Holmes is fine. Add to that Macy as the fussy senator and memorable cameos from Robert Duvall as a tobacco company patriarch , David Koechner as a deranged speaker for the forearms lobby, Sam Elliot who has one memorable scene as a former Marlboro man dying of cancer and the gorgeous Maria Bello as a lobbyist for the alcohol companies. Best of all is J.K. Simmons( Who played JJ Jameson , Peter Parkers boss in "Spiderman") who is again voluble and brilliant as Nicks boss barking out lines "We don't sell Tic Tacs , we sell cigarettes, they cool, addictive and available. The job is almost done for you".
Cigarettes, cool, addictive and available ...hhmm, a bit like this excellent darkly entertaining film then.