Buzz is gathering among our youth for a film that seems unlikely to be the Garden State or even Napoleon Dynamite of this year. It’s titled Thank You for Smoking, a wry phrase coined by the novel’s author, Christopher Buckley, the satirist son of the man who invented conservatism for our time, William F. Buckley. It’s political satire and it opened well in the Toronto Festival to mostly great reviews. It will close our palmy cinema extravaganza, and maybe the kids will buy tickets en masse.
Son Buckley writes humor bits for the New Yorker. This novel, which was a moderate bestseller, is a thriller that pits an anti-hero flack for the tobacco industry against his conscience and his son. It famously includes an attempted murder-by-tobacco-patch scene—delicious in its grisly irony.
And speaking of sons, the filmmaker is first-time big-feature director Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters and Montecito Pictures’ Ivan. Despite his Santa Barbara blood, Jason seemed uninterested in even phoning in an interview. Of course that’s his privilege, but we take considerable pride in our own, particularly when they command a cast that includes Robert Duvall, Maria Bello—who is now a Jason fan—and Katie Holmes. And, aye, there’s the rub.
Perhaps one reason Jason doesn’t want to return calls is all the fuss gathering over an allegedly hot sex scene involving Tom Cruise’s babaloo. The rumor circulated that Tom made a call to Jason asking firmly that the scene be dropped. Though Reitman denies complying, the film showed in Toronto without Katie lewd. Publicly, Reitman has said that a reel was missing in the Toronto show. But he has been a little less than forthcoming as to whether said reel will find its way back into the product we see when the fest closes on a film that, now I get it, the kids all want to see. (P.S. You can see Holmes naked in Sam Raimi’s The Gift, if that’s what floats your boat.)
In any case, swirling rumors tend to be good for movie fest buzz, and by Sunday night, we’ll discover whether the film itself is worth the innuendo and backstage string-pulling.