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Consuming Desires | The Nation

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Consuming Desires

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Risking his career (though not his flesh) by testifying before Senator William H. Macy, Naylor triumphantly asserts the right of every American to choose freely in the market, without the interference of a nanny state. I translate freely. What he actually says, with angry conviction, has more to do with his young son's chances of smoking someday and other questions of a "what of the children?" nature. What Naylor means, though--this time, you don't need captions to follow him--is that children grow up, and a grown-up society lets people buy what they please.

About the Author

Stuart Klawans
The Nation's film critic Stuart Klawans is author of the books Film Follies: The Cinema Out of Order (a finalist for...

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I will not argue with this defense of liberty, understood strictly as a consumer option, except to complain that it's not cynical. As Thank You for Smoking reaches its Frank Capra climax--I mean Capra in his preachy years--the mild diversion of its lies and scams drops away, and with it all pretense of dirty fun. Smoking? It's not a cool, dangerous drug kick but a policy statement. Corporate flackery? Not an exhilarating, amoral game but a necessary social lubricant. And speaking of lubricants: The only vice that remains unvirtuous, in the film's scheme, is sex with Katie Holmes, who alone is punished for this sin.

In the name of Barbara Stanwyck, I say that women in the movies deserve better and ought to be able to do worse. Christopher Buckley himself recalls, in the press kit for Thank You for Smoking, that his original inspiration came from watching a Tobacco Institute spokeswoman at work. Couldn't she have become Nicole Naylor? Or would postcoital smoke in a woman's mouth have soured that fine word, "choice"?

As for Buckley's adapters: I note that the lead producer of Thank You for Smoking, David Sacks, went into show business only in 2003, using the profit he'd made from an online financial-service business. That's as much experience as is required in anarcho-capitalist Hollywood, where a film's dialogue can now insistently laud Katie Holmes's breasts without anyone on the set--the director, the costumer, the bleeding best boy, for Pete's sake--remembering to show them off. A movie that praises professional hucksters, made by rank amateurs! But Sacks is spending his own money (as his first production preaches) and is free to enjoy it however he likes.

Your enjoyment, and mine, are our own lookout.

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