Thank You for Smoking is a surprisingly hilarous, biting satire of lobbying - in the form of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies. Played with perfection by Eckhart, Naylor becomes a character we, the audience, want to see more of - he turns someone who should be unlikeable into a sympathetic character.
Our first introduction to Naylor is on a talk show about smoking and cancer. Naylor shares the stage with a 15-year-old boy who is dying from cancer (and had recently stopped smoking), and Naylor turns the audience's hostility towards him around by saying Big Tobacco wants the boy to live — so he can continue to be a smoker — and it's the anti-smoking bunch that wants him to die. It's a hilarious opening to a great film, directed with unexpected maturity by 29-year-old Jason Reitman (son of director Ivan Reitman). Reitman, who also wrote the screenplay (based on the book by Christopher Buckley), deftly conducts the actions on-screen, maintaining a certain tone and not veering the film off the path of satire.
Naylor meets frequently with his friends, fellow lobbyists, known as the "MOD" squad (Merchants of Death): alcohol lobbyist Polly Bailey (Maria Bello) and firearms lobbyist Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner). In their funny scenes, the trio argues over which of their products causes the most deaths.
After his talk show appearance, Naylor becomes something of a celebrity, and a Washington, D.C. journalist, Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) wants an interview. Naylor not only grants the interview, but the two begin an affair, with Naylor, well, making a lot of what he thinks are off-the-record comments to Holloway. The comments not only turn out to be on-the-record, but they end up in the article Holloway writes about Naylor. Needless to say, his world is turned upside down.