If it never occurred to you that the cozy relationship between corporate lobbyists and members of Congress might not be in the best interests of the American public, first-time director Jason Reitman's adaptation of Christopher Buckley's biting novel will be a bracing eye-opener. But while being an equal-opportunity offender is the most cynical stance of all, the suggestion that in 21st-century America the greatest moral (not tactical, but moral) failing of them all is believing that truth and fairness can trump top-of-the-line spin seems less disingenuous in print than when wrapped in glossy Hollywood production values. How does silver-tongued tobacco-industry apologist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) live with himself? His cushy gig as spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies consists of using statistical obfuscation, misdirection and Orwellian double-speak to position smoking as the front line of the battle for freedom of choice, rather than a blatant example of how a handful of amoral businessmen line their own pockets at the expense of public health. "If you argue correctly, you're never wrong," he assures his starry-eyed 10-year-old, Joey (Cameron Bright), and anyway, everybody has bills to pay, right? Nick swaggers through a media-saturated landscape populated by self-aggrandizing journalists, opportunistic sick people and poorly prepared antagonists, easily refuting medical evidence, spinning the facts of smoking-related illness — make that alleged smoking-related illness — and casting sly aspersions on the character of antismoking crusaders like Vermont senator Ortolan Finistirre (William H. Macy). He meets weekly for lunch with pals Polly Bailey (Maria Bello) and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner), his alcohol- and firearms-industry counterparts — the MOD (Merchants of Death) Squad, they like to call themselves. Nick's brainstorm to combat increasingly successful antismoking campaigns and declining sales — persuading the movie industry to help him make smoking cool again — takes him to California for a magical mystery tour of a business even more slippery and dishonest than his own. But even as Nick is riding high, the seeds of his downfall are beginning to sprout, particularly his ill-advised affair with unscrupulous writer Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes). Eckhart is dazzling as a born phony almost brought low by believing his own lies, and he's matched at every turn by a stellar supporting cast that includes Robert Duvall as a Big Tobacco mogul, Sam Elliott as cancer-stricken Marlboro Man Lorne Lutch, J.K. Simmons as Nick's ruthless boss, Rob Lowe as the superagent who cloaks his venality beneath a facade of Asian spirituality, and Bello and Koechner as his partners in slime.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: R
- Review: If it never occurred to you that the cozy relationship between corporate lobbyists and members of Congress might not be in the best interests of the American public, first-time director Jason Reitman's adaptation of Christopher Buckley's biting novel will… (more)