F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 4, 2009)

4 12 2009

In honor of Jason Reitman’s third feature, “Up in the Air,” opening today, I wanted to use the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” for the first time in correlation with the release of a movie in theaters.  This week’s “F.I.L.M.” is Reitman’s first feature, “Thank You for Smoking.”  A satire that bites with the sharpness of piranha’s teeth, this look at the lobbying industry is absolutely brilliant.  I have come to expect nothing less from Reitman, but he exhibits the deftness of an old pro as a newcomer.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) has the gift of oratory and the art of spin, making him the perfect person to argue on behalf of the tobacco industry.  He never tries to justify himself or tobacco; he simply uses the rationale that by proving the other person wrong, you must be right.  Affectionately titled a “Merchant of Death,” he often meets for lunch with his respective counterparts in the alcohol and firearms industry (Maria Bello, David Koechner).  The film follows Nick after the announcement of a proposed Congressional measure to put a “POISON” label on all boxes of cigarettes by a peevish Vermont senator (William H. Macy).  However, Nick’s main struggle is not the label that threatens to destroy the product he promotes, but rather the struggle to balance the job he does with his requirement to be a good father to Joey, his budding adolescent son.  The film is at its best when the contrast between the two is evident: Joey has very black-and-white morals and can’t seem to understand why Nick has such grey ones in lobbying for an industry that kills millions of people each year.

Reitman also penned the screenplay, which is packed to the brim with piquant wit and exciting characters.  He also gets the best out of his actors, and the performance on celluloid matches their panache on the page.  Especially exciting to watch is Aaron Eckhart as he really gets to the core of Nick Naylor.  We really see what makes him tick, and as the story progresses, Eckhart really wrestles with his demons.  He gives us one of the most full and electrifying characters that comedy has ever seen, a true sensation.  “Thank You for Smoking” would be a crown jewel for an accomplished director, but as a first feature, Jason Reitman has set the bar extremely high for his masterpiece.  And if “Up in the Air” is as good as I hear, that bar is up in the atmosphere.


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8 12 2009
mcarteratthemovies

Jason Reitman is on fire. I swear that man can’t make a bad movie. It’s his writing that gets me every time — so witty but so perceptive about human nature. He doesn’t do “cute” or “heart-warming” in traditional ways, but you always walk away from his films feeling uplifted. At least I know I do. But I’m the girl who thinks “Bad Santa” is the world’s best Christmas movie.

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