Thank You for Smoking is, in fact, a darn good satire - one of the best I've seen since "Election". Aaron Eckhart holds the picture together with a witty, charismatic performance as a tobacco lobbyist. The film is basically about his profession as he spins the news, pitches a movie idea, dodges a subpoena, has an affair with a reporter (Katie Holmes), tries to spend time with his son (Cameron Bright), and has lunch with an alcohol lobbyist (Maria Bello) and a firearms rep (David Koechner) - where they literally compare body counts. The performances are excellent across the board, from William H. Macy's crusading Senator to Rob Lowe's smirking Hollywood agent who struts around his office in a kimono. Even Adam Brody is enjoyable as Lowe's hyperactive assistant whose in-joke with a co-worker earned one of the biggest laughs of the movie.
The majority of the credit, however, needs to go to first-time feature director Jason (son of Ivan) Reitman. Adapting from Christopher Buckley's novel, Reitman has fashioned an enormously clever script, consistent and strong in character, yet not forgetting to be incredibly funny. The style is also perfect - brisk, light-hearted, with impeccable timing marred only by a tangental subplot including Sam Elliott that is, sadly, not very funny. Overall, however, the pace is fast enough where the laughs keep coming.
Reitman also does the unthinkable: he keeps the satire dark and funny to the very end. While most comedies stray blindly into the sentimental, "Thank You" avoids unnecessary emotional tripe and - thankfully - avoids sermonizing about the dangers of smoking or of the flaws of the political process. Eckhart's flawless performance and Reitman's wonderful screenplay anchor an uncommonly perceptive comedy, provided you take yours black.