Aaron Eckhart plays a devil in nearly every movie he's in (the too good to be true biker boyfriend in Erin Brockovich a notable exception). But he's a handsome devil, isn't he? So his casting as Nicky Naylor, serpent-tongued tobacco lobbyist in Thank You For Smoking, is a bullseye. Maria Bello plays a fellow "merchant of death" lobbyist only she works for Alcohol. Her performance made me smile as well. In publicity photos and awards shows I keep seeing Maria with flowers in her hair and even though that's usually a better look for a drag queen, I find it endearing on her.
[Gaggy Name-Dropping Tangent: I went to the same college as Aaron and I have videotapes of him in short student films. No lie.]
Thank You For Smoking has lots of great tiny moments and a game cast (excluding Katie Holmes. Why would anyone cast her as a sexpot when she always looks so sexless and modest?) but the film is not as sharp and biting as it wants to be. It needs the machinegun blink and you missed it pacing of something like His Girl Friday but it moves like anything else at the multiplex. Mistake. The biggest flaw is that it has an intrusive parallel plot about Naylors warm relationship with his son, the creepy older than his years Cameron Bright from Birth, which throws off the satiric tone.
I really wanted to like this. I'm certain that many people will. But it's a mixed bag for me.