A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film includes frequent use of the f-word (over 20 times). Lobbyists discuss their devious tactics and corrupt employers (firearms, alcohol, and Big Tobacco), comparing death tolls, diseases (fetal alcohol syndrome, cancer), and gruesome inspirations (the gun lobbyist was moved by the shootings at Kent State). Nick is kidnapped and covered with nicotine patches, landing in the hospital. Characters do not smoke on screen, but they do drink occasionally. Characters discuss sex and lust using slang; one sex scene. A primary theme suggests that lobbying is a form of lying to sell product and ideas.
What's the story?
Employed by Big Tobacco, Washington DC lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) argues that even if cigarettes are toxic, they're not illegal, so it's up to the individual whether to smoke them. Part of a threesome that call themselves the M.O.D. Squad (Merchants of Death), Nick's fellow lobbyists include alcohol lobbyist Polly (Maria Bello) and firearms lobbyist Bobby (David Koechner). They spend their lunchtimes drinking in a red leather booth at Bert's, comparing notes and numbers of deaths with regard to their hurtful, well-paying jobs. Other characters in Nick's world include a skuzzy Hollywood producer (Rob Lowe), a righteous Senator Finistirre (William H. Macy), and a tobacco magnate (Robert Duvall). Nick's revelation begins when he meets the debilitated, lung-cancerous Marlboro Man Lorne Lutch (Sam Elliott). Nick is supposed to convince him to give up his threat to out tobacco's malicious intents. Nick's talking gets him into trouble with Washington Post reporter Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) when he blabs crucial secrets.
Is it any good?
Based on Christopher Buckley's popular novel, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING isn't as clever as it seems to be, and it doesn't exactly condemn or admire Nick. But it does question his nihilism, in part through his adoring and inquisitive son, whose big-eyed reaction shots underline that Nick has responsibilities, beyond the job. While Nick thinks for a minute he wants to raise up Joey in his own image, when he starts to doubt the moral relativism of his soulless arguments, the relationship changes. "If you argue correctly," he tells Joey, "you're never wrong." Nick's a great talker, Thank You submits, but he's not right.
The film's smartest scenes involve The M.O.D. Squad. The group's honesty provides sharp contrast with the film's other fall guys who, whether callous or dumb or egotistical, are stereotypes that offer no new insights, just easy targets.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Nick's relationship with his son Joey: How does the son challenge his dad's thinking? How does his admiration of his father make Nick question himself? How does the Marlboro Man serve as a kind of father figure for Nick, who sees in him a victim of the product he pitches?
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