Friday, October 22, 2010

Smoke that Cigarette!

So I came across this movie in the middle of writing the Ladakh post. Needed a break and was looking for something that wouldn’t be too heavy on the senses. For some reason, I seem to be shying away from the classics for awhile now. So while I was rummaging my movie collection, I came across ‘Thank you for smoking’. I had no idea what the film was about but a couple of friends had said it was a really cool flick. Considering it is by Jason Reitman, I was inclined to believe them,I absolutely loved ‘Up in the air’.

As the credits began to roll, I was blown away by the presentation style. Spoiler alert - Those of you who want to watch the film, please stop reading now.
The credits were all names on top of cigarette packs and the credit itself was the brand of a cigarette. Ingenious! There might have been other films with this style, but combined with Tex Williams’s unbelievably cute rendition of ‘Smoke that cigarette’, I was totally drawn into the experience of watching this movie.

Reitman is a filmmaker whose characters always have unenviable jobs – in ‘Up in the Air’ Clooney had to fire people and do it as kindly as possible. In ‘Thank you for smoking’,Aaron Eckhart plays Nick Naylor,the man with the most hated job in the world – That of a lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco studies, which was supposedly set up to prove that smoking has no connection whatsoever to lung cancer..Reitman has won half the battle of making a good film by placing his protagonist in such unlikely professions,(not to undermine his storytelling skills though)

The film’s narrative style is nothing new, the voice over by the lead has got to be the easiest way to tell people what he’s thinking. Despite that, TYFS is a heartwarming tale of a man caught in a job not because he loves it but because he feels his skills are suited for doing just that.

Divorced with a ten year old son,Nick turns every situation where he could possibly get butchered by the press or the public into one where he comes out a winner – Herein lies the writer’s skills.TYFS is not an original screenplay,but adapted from a novel by Christopher Buckley.

Eckhart is a curious choice for the role of Nick Naylor,the tobacco lobbyist. I have always thought his face was better suited for comic roles –the cleft in the chin and angular jaw could have well been the mark of a hot model but he looks comical for some strange reason. The first time I saw him was in ‘the Dark Knight’ and I thought someone more dramatic looking should have done that role.Whatever.

As TYFS progresses,you realize Eckhart is cast quite well, as the character is someone who knows he is hated and has over time, come to handle that quite well, and to his advantage. Eckhart exudes a kind of subtle coolness, not sexy like Clooney and not boy next door like John Krasinski but somewhere in the middle – like a cool and quirky bank/insurance executive you might meet on one of those unexpected days.

TYFS is a journey film – Nothing dramatic happens, no loud background scores and no great resolution in the end. What is it about these films I have come to so love these days? Unlike heavy plot based films that don't have time for characterization,journey films let you feel the character in your heart.

TYFS strikes the right balance between dialog that is not too cinematic and something that you might get to hear in everyday life.Eckhart delivers a casual portrayal which if overdone could have killed the film – Therein lies Reitman’s strength, to draw that subtlety from his actors.

As a satire on how screwed up life can get,TYFS is a hands down winner. Eckhart gets thrown out of his job for blurting his trade secrets to a journalist he’s sleeping with (played by Katie Holmes). She obviously rips him apart in her piece. When his boss offers him back his job, he turns it down and decides to lobby for another voiceless organization – This time the ‘Cell phone usage has nothing to do with Brain Cancer’ Association!

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