I saw Jason Reitman‘s Thank You for Smoking at the Toronto Film Festival, and then again at Sundance ’06. And all that time I never wrote anything. This means something, obviously, although I’ve had fun with it each time. For a movie about lighting up, Smoking is in no way, shape or form a burn. And yet…let me try again. A very smart, fast-on-its-feet satire, Smoking appeals much more to my dry sense of humor than anything Jason’s dad, Ivan Reitman (i.e., “the king of tasteless comedy“), has directed or produced. And Aaron Eckhardt’s tobacco lobbyist guy is his best role (and best performance) since In The Company of Men, and everyone else in the large cast runs with the material in just the right way. (The exception is Katie Holmes, whose performance as a Washington, D.C., investigative reporter is impossible to roll with.) Smoking has exactly the right pitch and tone for delivering funny-cryptic social commentary. It has a calm deadpan center and lets Reitman’s screenplay (which is based on Christopher Buckley’s book) do the walking and talking. So why haven’t I posted? Because it’s a little too mild-mannered. Reitman never tries pushing his comedy into any kind of frenzied Preston Sturges mode, and that’s the charm of it, ironically…but it’s so smartly agreeable (as opposed to rousing, disturbing or challenging) that I somehow felt it didn’t need my two cents. It seems I can only get it up with films that I seriously love or hate (or with Oscar campaigns I love or hate, a la Munich). The irony is that I tend not to go with satiric comedies that shoot for the moon Sturges-style, because this sort of thing is very hard to do well and almost all directors who try for this wind up flubbing it. Reitman, wisely, hasn’t tried — he’s kept things within his own ballpark — which is why Thank You for Smoking “works.” I’m not saying wait for the DVD, but at the same time I can’t quite say you have to stop everything and run down to the plex to see it…and this isn’t some smart-ass attitude trip exercise. The subject is close to millions, obviously. I first started smoking when I was 14 or 15. My first serious quit happened when I was 25, but every now and then I’d relapse. I used to think of cigarettes as “little friends” (I loved that term) but no more and never again.