THANK YOU FOR SMOKING….In the course of a column about how Hollywood is wrong to portray conservatives as nasty and unpleasant ? they can actually be very jovial people if you get to know them! ? Jonah Goldberg comments about the movie Thank You for Smoking:
The refreshing thing about “Thank You for Smoking” is that the most likable character is the most “evil” ? by liberal standards at least. Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor, played by Aaron Eckhart, is a charming rogue who loves his son and doesn’t apologize for his line of work. He never “sees the light” at the end of the movie, as Michael Douglas does in “Falling Down” when he realizes that, as an angry white male, he actually must be the villain.
That is sort of weird, and what makes it weirder is that in the book Naylor does see the light and eventually ends up working for an anti-smoking organization called Clean Lungs 2000. Basically, then, the conservative author of the book (Christopher Buckley, son of William F.) portrayed the tobacco lobby as evil and allowed his hero to see the light at the end of the day, while in supposedly liberal Hollywood the screenwriter (Jason Reitman, son of Ivan) portrayed the smoking lobby as just another industry group and not only kept the hero in his job, but allowed him to earn the love of his young son for doing so. I don’t know if that’s refreshing, but it’s definitely odd.
And for what it’s worth, the main defect of the movie isn’t the changed ending, it’s the young son, who takes all the air out of the pointed satire of the book and turns it into a treacly morality tale. This was very much an adult story written for adults, and why Reitman felt like he had to introduce a cute little kid into the story is beyond me. Who does he think he is, Steven Spielberg?
POSTSCRIPT: Lest I sound too critical, the movie was actually pretty good. Not as good as the book, and sort of uneven, but it had some funny scenes and it’s worth seeing.