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“Thank You For Smoking” by Jason Reitman Film Analysis Essay


The film “Thank you for smoking” by Jason Reitman is based on the plot of the book written by Christopher Buckley. The film is devoted to a few issues, namely to ethics and public relations. It deals with two types of conflicts, internal and external, and teaches the viewers to give up their prejudices towards the ultimate good or bad things.


The film lasts about 80 minutes. The main character is Nick Naylor, a young and successful businessman. He works as a vice-president of the so-called “Academy of Tobacco Studies”, which actually means that he works for Marlboro Company. His main duty is to inform people about the results of the studies, which is a euphemism to convincing people that smoking is good. The whole film is about his public relations and his work.

Nick is very successful and self-assured; he is aware of the fact that he is hated by the defenders of a healthy life, but this fact seems to even increase his inspiration for work. Later Nick loses everything after having all his secrets published by one of his lovers. However, the fibula of the plot lies in Nick’s communication with his son. The boy lives with his mother, the character’s ex-wife, but the father remains an ultimate authority for him.

Interestingly, the boy appeared to be the only person who managed to support Nick when he needed it and make him believe in his power again. Thus, after a great depression, Nick finds the power to get back to his usual public life and proves everyone that he is right and that he is a talented talker. Despite the fact that by the end of the film the character changes his job, his nature remains the same: he believes himself to be born to talk and convince people. The author shows that he can justify even a devil.

Ethical philosophies

Ethics plays a vital role in the film. Even though it is not addressed to straightforward, the ethical issues are implied in every action of the character. His behavior is shown from the two points of view: his personal and the public one. Thus, the viewers are to analyze every action of Nick and decide for themselves, whether they are positive or negative. On the whole, the main character of the film subscribes to a few ethical philosophies.

Firstly, he refers to utilitarianism. For instance, it is a well-known fact that the utilitarian ideas are based on the principle “Greatest goods for the greatest number” (Wilcox, 19). This principle was used by the character while he was trying to defend smoking, referring to it as to an attribute of the majority of the citizens. Here he also uses such device as an appeal to authority; Nick recalls Julia Roberts and other movie stars who were smoking in films.

Secondly, later in the film, while talking to his son and teaching him how to express the thoughts freely, he subscribes to the duty-based ethics. When his son, Joey was trying to write an essay about American government, his father showed him how important it is to have an ability to express oneself. He uses the convincing phrase “Argument, not negotiation”.

Thirdly, the principles of consequentialism (Caroll, 2009) are partially used. For instance, when the character is choosing among impartial rules, he thinks only about consequences. However, it is a rather one-sided view. This ethical principle can be illustrated by the episode where Nick is flying in the plain and thinking that if he convinces at least one passenger to smoke, he will get money to pay for his ticket.

Finally, it is interesting that by the end of the film, even after some mishaps the character does not change his ethical philosophy and returns to the initial ideas.

Ethical guidelines

In my opinion, the character is very successful in all the spheres of his life. What I mean by that is that Nick Naylor has a high salary, close relationships with his son; he is respected and very popular. At first sight, all these facts signal about the right approach of the character to both his job and relationships. However, in my opinion, there are some things that he lacks. Among them is the private set of rules, a special codex which every person should have and follow.

For instance, according to Kant, every person should be honest not because society demands them to be so, but because it is important for a person to know that they are honest. This is something that refers to human duties. The main character of the film, however, has neither such personal codex nor a need for it. His problem is that convincing other people he also convinced himself in his rightness.

However, all his virtues seem to be imaginary. In fact, Nick believes that he is what he wants to be, and makes the drawbacks of his character and behavior look positive instead of correcting them. He has well-developed skills of leading the sophistic conversations, but, on the other hand, he is weak because he can only be justified by his own talking.

In my opinion, the character should try living his life in a way which would not need any comments. What I mean by that is that his actions should speak for themselves. In fact, the ethical guidelines for the character are to define not what he wants to do but what he wants to be; this suggests following Aristotle’s character-based ethic principles.

The plot of the film can be very useful for those who work in the sphere of integrated marketing communication, as it shows the methods and techniques for successful business leads. The film can be very stimulating for those who want to connect their lives with businesses, especially those connected with communication.

Film critique

The strong point about the film is that the main character is shown from two different points of view. This suggests that no matter to what extinct he is considered to be negative, the viewers still feel sympathy to him because they can also see his feelings and thoughts, not only behavior, which makes the relationships between the character and the viewer more personal.

This reminded me of the film “99 Franks”, which has a similar trick in it. I also liked the light-hearted way of presenting very serious issues: the dialogues are thick with jokes and irony. In addition, Nick is shown in almost all the possible situations; he had to face joy and luxury, sympathy and anger, frustration and pride. In my opinion, this lets the viewers study the character and understand him deeply.

However, there are also some drawbacks I would like to outline. For example, the idea of the film seems to be changing throughout the plot. All the events point to the necessary changes in the character’s consciousness. However, even after getting punished for his actions, Nick returns to what he used to be. The talk with his son, where Joey encourages his father to continue working, seems to be signaling about a new perception of the world by the character. However, despite this fact Nick still does not intend to become honest and open; he continues using euphemisms and compares his ambitions to those of “talented” Charley Manson. In my opinion, the moral basis of the film is not clear enough.

What is more, it is worth saying that the character of the boy is not drawn real enough. Joey seems to be even cleverer than both his parents are; he learns only the “right” things from his father (who often is immoral) and always behaves right. His immense understanding of his father and of the world around is obviously overexaggerated.

One more thing which I found not clear enough is the kidnap of the character. This event is supposed to be nuclear in the plot; however, it made no significant difference for Nick. In addition, the kidnappers were not revealed; neither did they occur in the film after the incident. That is why this part can be considered as underworked.


The film “Thank you for smoking” combines different approaches to ethics, such as utilitarian and duty-based. It has a complex plot and a vivid fibula. It is very convincing and is rather light-hearted. However, some points such as characters’ ethics and some other details could have been developed more.

Reference List

Caroll, Buchholtz (2009) Business & society: Ethics and stakeholder management, 7th Edition. South-Western Cengage Learning

Wilcox, D., & Cameron, D. (2010). Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics, 9th Edition. Pearson: Boston.

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""Thank You For Smoking" by Jason Reitman Film Analysis." IvyPanda, 10 Apr. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/thank-you-for-smoking-by-jason-reitman-film-analysis/.

1. IvyPanda. ""Thank You For Smoking" by Jason Reitman Film Analysis." April 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thank-you-for-smoking-by-jason-reitman-film-analysis/.


IvyPanda. ""Thank You For Smoking" by Jason Reitman Film Analysis." April 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thank-you-for-smoking-by-jason-reitman-film-analysis/.


IvyPanda. 2020. ""Thank You For Smoking" by Jason Reitman Film Analysis." April 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thank-you-for-smoking-by-jason-reitman-film-analysis/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '"Thank You For Smoking" by Jason Reitman Film Analysis'. 10 April.

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