From Book to Film: Thank You for Smoking

March 14, 2014

This review is different from the others as it is the first of what hopefully be several reviews of films that are actually shown in Social Studies. The film adaption of Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley is shown by both Jill Musil and John Fields in US Government. The plot follows Nick Naylor, the chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, as it details his life of working at one of the most hated corporations in the world. The novel shows he is able to effectively do his job with quick wit and wordplay and be able to sleep at night due to what he calls the Nuremberg defense: “I vas only paying ze mortgage.”

The film adaption was written and directed by Jason Reitman, who would later go on to direct Juno and Up in the Air, and starred Aaron Eckhart as Naylor who several may recognize as Harvey Dent/Two-Face from The Dark Knight. The film for the most part matches the novel’s overall tone, though several events are rearranged and some characters and events omitted.  For example, a major plot point in the novel is when Naylor is actually kidnapped by a group of anti-smoking extremists, but in the film that is only a minor part of the plot. The only major changes besides that is Naylor’s relationship with his son (Cameron Bright) is made much more important than in the novel and the ending is altered slightly.

This film has a talented cast. Aaron Eckhart is amazing as Naylor and really brings the character to life. Everyone else is also exactly how I pictured them from the book, from his boss (J.K. Simmons) to his friends (Maria Bello and David Koechner) to even the reporter (Katie Holmes) who wants an inside scoop on him. And I also feel the need to call upon the complete coincidence that Holmes would later be in Batman Begins.

As for the connection to the US Government curriculum, Musil said, “Thank You for Smoking goes with our unit on interest groups and lobbying. It is about a lobbyist for the Tobacco Industry, and it shows the ways in which lobbyists try to convince government figures to vote / think certain ways.”

In that regards I find film does do a good job about showing how lobbyist’s work. I say this based off of how the Tobacco Industry has continuously refused to comment on how the industry is represented in this film. I don’t know about you but that tells me that at least some of this has to be true.

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