Monday, April 03, 2006
Tobacco vs. heroin
This was a movie-packed weekend, I tell you what. A movie a day. I was crazy with the movies. I couldn't turn around without seeing a movie. Movies coming out my ears.
With pleasant memories of Inside Man lodged in my brain, I walked into Thank You for Smoking not expecting too much. A couple of laughs. A little well-aimed anti-tobacco industry ammunition. I was ever-so-pleasantly surprised that the film held together from the first crackle of the cellophane wrap to the last sputter of glowing ash.
The storyline hummed along like a deep sea fishing line with a riled swordfish on the end, full of sly humor and devilish energy. Aaron Eckhart was perfection in his role of a lobbyist who wears moral ambiguity like a fine wool suit. Even sidetrips to a Hollywood mega-agency prove smile-inducing. Hell, even that obnoxious brunette kid from The O.C got some grins out of me. The political agenda set forth in Christopher Buckley's source novel was there throughout, but the story never dove into preachy exposition. All involved were hoisted on their own petards in a most delightful way. Kudos to director/writer Jason Reitman for crafting a doozy of a ride that nailed every detail down to the glorious opening title sequence.
Flush from two great cinematic experiences within 24 hours of each other, I felt I could do no wrong. I was somewhat right. There was nothing really wrong with the experiment in genre blending (film noir fast talk meets Ridgemont High by way of David Lynchville) that is Brick, but it does suffer from the condition that Inside Man and Thank You for Smoking cleverly avoid--the third act doldrums. A little tighter editing could've made this oddball diversion into an instant classic. Don't get me wrong, it's very clever, well-acted and rigged with little cherry bombs of visual and verbal humor. It's definitely worth seeing for the more adventurous movie-goers out there.
Former Third Rock from the Sun star Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries a lot of responsibility on his sherpa'd shoulders to make this film fly and he delivers. He is stoic, smart-ass and wise beyond his years as he slings the dense, jargon-dripping dialogue like a veteran diner cook handling hash. Director/writer Rian Johnson deserves a lot of credit for nursing terrific performances out of the whole youthful cast (with the exception of the femme fatale who I wanted to head-butt for most of the film).
There is a brief scene where JGL and his ex-lady love embrace behind a school building and the moment is jewel-like. It could've so easily skidded into afterschool special cheese, but it's simply lovely. Lukas Haas plays the caped and caned villain with delicious ennui. His moments in the film are the most Lynch-like in mood and art direction. Another shout-out should go to Noah Fleiss who plays the muscle behind the cape known as Tug. His scene with the rooster pitcher is worth the price of admission alone.
So, it's funny. The more I reminisce about this movie, the more I like it. I can definitely picture it showing up as a future regular on the midnight circuit, as nostalgic teens shout the esoteric slang back to the screen and dress up in lookalike costumes. Not a bad endorsement, after all. May I propose a toast?