Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thank You For Smoking Movie Review

I watched "Thank You For Smoking" the other night, and though I had seen the film before, I was surprised by what I discovered when I watched it again with the knowledge I have gained from Visual Literacy. Besides my love for William H. Macy (he just seems so benevolent! Although not necessarily in this role), I wanted to look at the plot and elements of this movie to see what I could connect with our perception today.

I think the director (Jason Reitman) of this movie wanted to point out how different points of view can really make a topic dynamic and complicated. The character Nick Naylor is a lobbyist for big tobacco, and vice-president for the "Academy of Tobacco Studies." Throughout the film, Nick is constantly defending Big Tobacco and going head-to-head with those opposed, arguing that people have the right to choose whether or not they want to smoke, that it is not the fault of Big Tobacco that smoking is killing, it is the smokers' own problems. Now, for Nick Naylor, being a tobacco lobbyist is "just a way to pay the mortgage." I think this is interested because if you look at a job like Nick's from this perspective, it really is just a job. However, Nick's perception of his job is different than those of people who have lost loved ones to the ill effects of smoking. It seemed like the director wanted to emphasize how everyone has their own personal take on things, and how easy it is for us to put a "spin" on things to justify our actions and our perspectives. For Nick Naylor, he is doing what he's good at (talking) and supporting his son.

I do not recall very many instances where minority groups are featured. It seemed to me that the characters were primarily white. There is one state official present during the end scene that is African American, and he makes the point that Americans need symbols to look at in order to understand a concept or idea. Other than this individual, I did not see many other minority representations.

The director is Jason Reitman, a Caucasian man who is Canadian. I think his background may have played a role in directing the film, because he seemed to have an interest in the story after reading the book of the same title. Therefore, he had to follow the story line of the book pretty closely, with his own interpretation of some of the action. The elements of the book are there, with Reitman's own "spin" on the characters. I think that Reitman did not necessarily eliminate focus on other ethnicity for person reasons; rather, Reitman was just trying to follow Thank You For Smoking author Christopher Buckley's initial descriptions.

Because of the limited instances of minorities in this film, I think people in these groups may be offended simply by the lack of the groups being in the film. I also think that smokers may misinterpret this movie because of the negativity against those who choose to smoke out of their own will. Throughout the film, the emphasis is on the people's choice to smoke (at least that is what Nick Naylor is always saying), and I think that maybe people who choose to smoke would feel offended that smoking is made out to seem so hated and bad. They may feel even more alienated because of their person choices than they may feel in real life, when attention is not necessarily paid to individual smokers.

There are several notable instances where visual means are used to enhance the film and focus our attention. The introductory credits sequence was done with fonts and graphics meant to imitate those on cigarette packaging. I thought this was a very clever way to show how we can be influenced by visual graphics, especially when people are trying to sell things to us. Also, there is an emphasis on how companies, in this case cigarette companies, use catchy commercials and other means to grab our attention. As the senator of Vermont, William H. Macy's character comments 
"they like to use cartoons and symbols to hook our kids," which is sometimes a very true case. Think of the Marlboro man, the great cowboy figure that was bound to interest children in the 60s and 70s. In movies, actors needed something to do while they were talking, and smoking just seemed like a "natural" thing for them to do. 
Advertisement was born inadvertently through movies! Now today, smoking characters have negative connotations, and they probably should have. These different artistic elements employed by the director made the film even more effective in showing us how advertisements can be easily justified, and how important it is to resist falling into the "spin" and to judge things for ourselves, instead of letting others make decisions for us!

No comments:

Post a Comment