This is a thoroughly entertaining, fast-paced, well-drawn satire of the power of American lobbyists. The script is sharp, snappy and fun, while raising important questions about the nefarious influence of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. In this case, the satire focuses primarily on Big Tobacco, through the spokesman Nick Naylor, played wonderfully by Aaron Eckhart, and complemented by the two other “MOD” squad members (Merchants of Death, as they happily refer to themselves; the two others being Maria Bello‘s character, a hardcore drinker representing the alcohol lobby, and David Koechner, playing the guns fanatic for the firearms industry. Both of them are entertaining and funny in their performances — especially because they play them so seriously). So clearly it’s a great cast, which also includes fab performances by William H. Macy, yet again playing another loser role; this time as the senator for Vermont going after Big Tobacco (in an embarrassingly incompetent way), J. K. Simmons once again playing a hard ass so well (as Naylor’s militaristic boss), and Robert Duvall (utterly charming, ruthless, and a Southern Gentleman, who plays ‘the Captain’, the last almighty oligarch of Big Tobacco).
Jason Reitman’s film, for which he wrote the screenplay as well as directed is thankfully nothing like Juno the dull, pretentious movie with the enormously irritating and snotty female lead role, or Up in the Air, the half-baked, completely compromised satire on the insipid life of business. Perhaps because it is based on something substantial, namely the successful satirical novel Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley (ironic, given that he’s the son of the now-deceased American political neo-conservative, William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of The National Review and who helped Reagan come to power).
The film’s satiric quality and sheer value for entertainment has also made me relish the prospect of reading Buckley’s other satirical fiction. (Interestingly, like his father, Christopher also had a privileged education and began as a conservative (even being a speechwriter for George W. Bush in 1981), but over time his talents and politics turned to a criticism of the neo-conservatives, and he became known as an author of satires such as this, as well as God is My Broker: A Monk-tycoon Reveals the 7 1/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth (note: God is My Broker is out of print as if 2011), Little Green Men, The White House Mess, and No Way to Treat a First Lady.) And, the movie has given me hope once again in Jason Reitman: that he may come up with the goods and deliver another wonderful movie, rather than the fecal matter of Juno (real name it merits: Juno it’s Sh*it? Answer: Yes, I do, thanks) and Up in the Air (as in, Up its Ars*e).