Monday, May 14, 2012

Thank You For Smoking: Movie AND Book Review (2 for the $ of 1)

I chose to read Thank You for Smoking when I stumbled upon it at a book sale and was able to pick it up for 25 cents. Ever since then, which was about a month ago, I have been dying to read this novel and I am thrilled that I finally found the time!

The plot of Thank You For Smoking revolves around Nick Naylor and his work at the Academy for Tobacco Studies in Washington D.C. Basically, he is the spokesperson for the company and spends the majority of his time defending cigarettes and trying to debunk the “myth” that cigarettes are bad for people. Though the majority of people would find this job to be immoral, Nick is able to pull it off splendidly to the point that it appears he actually believes the lies that he tells the public. Nick is as alienated in his personal life as he makes himself in his professional life. He is divorced and though he helps to support his ex-wife and son, he has little to do with either. The majority of his support comes from the self-proclaimed “Merchants of Death”, also known as the Mod Squad, which is made up of Nick and his two closest friends one of whom is a lobbyist for the alcohol industry and the other is a pro-gun lobbyist. Nick’s boss and co-workers are even less helpful in giving him a moral balance to his character. BR, Nick’s boss, is driven solely by money and power and has no qualms about casting employees aside if they refuse to help him in either of these ventures. Even more dubious is Jeanette who is BR’s office love interest and has had her eye on Nick’s job. Though the characters are interesting in themselves, the action in the novel really begins when Nick is brought on the Larry King show where a caller threatens Nick’s life.

Overall, this is a great novel! It has everything that an enthralling tale should: sex, lies, deceit, and redemption. A lot of the humor is tongue and cheek and the majority of the dialog is sarcastic. All of the characters are cynical and do not hide their prejudices which leads to some hilarious situations. Most of all, I loved the characters. I thought that Buckley did in excellent job in making almost every character seem to be without a conscience and yet the reader is encouraged to root for “the enemy”.

Less than 12 hours after I finished this novel, I ran out and rented the movie. Though they share the same title and some of the same plot points, the novel and movie are completely different. In order to make the movie stay within in an hour and a half, the director/screenwriter took out a main character who was crucial to the novel. In doing so, the film has a completely different feel than the movie. The moral of the book is to basically watch one’s back because a friend or co-worker could be your greatest enemy. However, the moral of the movie is that you should never tell anything to a reporter even if you are sleeping with her and she seems sweet. In other words, the enemy is from the outside. Due to this, the ending of the novel and that of the film are almost exact opposite of each other. While the film eliminated a pivotal co-worker character, it added Nick’s son. Though the scenes between father and son were humorous, I don’t believe that it added anything to the movie. In contrast, the book only mentions Nick’s son once or twice which further shows Nick’s alienation from his family and any kind of love. Lastly, the novel puts a great emphasis on Nick’s relationship with the owner of the Academy of Tobacco Studies (known as the Captain). It is this relationship that gives Nick any hope for the future and the Captain acts as Nick’s only ally. Yet in the movie, the profoundness of this relationship is stripped down. Overall, I think that the movie and the book are wonderful! I fully enjoyed both. I have to say that I might have even enjoyed the movie a bit more than the book (but the jury is still out on that). However, they are so different that they must be viewed as entirely different entities that merely share the same name.


  1. I'm always afraid to watch a movie after reading a book cause I KNOW I'm going to compare. Sometimes it's fine, other times not so much. I find it funny that the two for this one are SO different and the endings are exact opposites. I gotta say, you got me curious!

  2. Thank you for the comment! I would say that you should try both. If nothing else, you'll certainly laugh. As long as you go into the movie knowing that it's a completely different animal (like apples and cheeseburgers) I think you'll enjoy both.