Competent: Adj. Acceptable and satisfactory, though not outstanding.
That’s how I would describe Thank You for Smoking, a comedy-drama film directed by Jason Reitman and starring Aaron Eckhart, a competent lead actor among a troupe of competent supporting actors. While the film had excellent craft and clever usage of certain cinematographic techniques, it was mildly generic and doesn’t stand out from other films in my mind. It’s the perfect film for one to enjoy when there’s nothing else to do.
The film begins with Nick Naylor (played by Aaron Eckhart), a tobacco lobbyist, appearing on a talk show to defend the usage of cigarettes. Anti-smoking lobbyists attempt to use a cancer-ridden teenager against Naylor and his campaign. Naylor, however turns the scene around as he points how the anti-smoking lobbyists want the teenager to die while he and his company want him to survive. Naylor wins the crowd over, victory for his company, roll intro credits.
Throughout portions of the film, Naylor narrates in order to give exposition. Given that this movie is based off of a book, one can assume that the narration is taken from first person narration in the original book. Personally, I felt that this was a nice touch, as it provided exposition and helped with the feel of the entire film. It made it easier to explain characters and their roles.
My favorite part was the introduction of the “Merchants of Death”, Naylor’s friends whom also work in industries known for killing people. Their conversations provide good foils to each other and their interactions with Naylor’s son, Joey, added development to these characters.
I must say, though, that , was my least favorite part of the film. I didn’t mind his character, but I felt that the child who played him was a little wooden in their acting. It didn’t take away from the film, but it did irk me, somewhat. One particular moment in the film that bothered me was during the Joey’s speech was when he looked straight into the camera and as does a quick zoom to his face. To me, that felt out of character and a little unnecessary.
That wasn’t the only case of out of character cinematography, but I imagine that those were all part of providing emphasis for certain scenes, which makes it somewhat forgivable, but still off key, in my opinion. For the most part, the cinematography was just fine. There were nice establishing pan shots, good usage of stills, and well-placed graphics. Overall, I give this film a 3 out of 4 stars.