Pick: Thank You for Smoking

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SATIRE Outfitted with a name that sounds shiny and desirable, Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is in the business of eating shit with a smile, then pretending that aforementioned shit is, in fact, a brand! new! renewable! energy source! Such jaw-dropping insincerity is a must when you've got his job: chief national public-relations shill for the tobacco industry. There's no putting a good face on the promotion and sales of "cancer sticks" anymore, is there? Nick is a genius at suggesting otherwise, or at least at weaving such tangles of faux folky, quasi-inspirational "logic" that his many foes are left confusedly tongue-tied. In private moments he's still ruthless, pragmatic, self-justifying, cynical — yet an everyman nonetheless, trying in his own way to be a good citizen, even a good dad: On his custody days, he inculcates his son Joey (Cameron Bright) with life wisdom while seldom evoking the Golden Rule. Kidnap attempts, death threats, crusading congressmen (William H. Macy), duplicitous investigative journalists (Katie Holmes), living recriminations like a near dead former Marlboro Man (Sam Elliott), cold, hard statistics — nothing fazes Nick. A political movie in that it's about culture-of-spin morality — in which the highest value is placed on the most you can get away with for the sake of the bottom line — Jason Reitman's film from Christopher Buckley's novel gives good satire. It's awfully clever, colorful, and well cast; Eckhart hasn't been so perfect since he slithered through In the Company of Men. Yet once the moderate dazzle lifts, you might realize that exposing and/or making fun of Big Tobacco is like shooting, er, smoked fish in a barrel. (Dennis Harvey)

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING opens Fri/24 in Bay Area theaters.

Go to www.sfbg.com for showtimes.

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