The Academy of Tobacco Studies, a fictional research institute in the surreal world of Thank You for Smoking, inundates America’s children with the pro-smoking side of the tobacco controversy, all in an effort to let the consumer make up his or her own mind. And unless you want to discourage critical thinking in our youth, you best be on their side.
So goes the beguilingly charming rhetoric of ace lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), the protagonist and anti-hero at the center of this whip-smart social satire. Nick is the Academy’s not-so-secret weapon, dispatched to conceive of and convey the merits of cigarettes to teens and policy-makers alike. And he does so with unshakeable confidence, until the seductive reporter Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) sleeps her way through his defenses and exposes his and the tobacco industry’s tactics in the pages of the aptly named Washington Probe.
The film was directed and adapted for the screen by Jason Reitman—son of comedic director Ivan Reitman—from the book by Christopher Buckley and does not direct its gibes specifically at tobacco, but instead skillfully explores the current state of political discourse and the importance of public appearance.
“That’s the beauty of argument,” Naylor tells his impressionable young son. “If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”