At the Movies: ‘Air’ Impressively Takes Flight
By Megan Bianco
What Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire (1996) does for football and Bennett Miller’s Moneyball (2011) does for baseball, Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort, Air, does for basketball.
Like Jerry Maguire, it’s about a guy once successful in the athletics industry trying to convince an athlete with a lot of potential to sign with him before the former is out of a gig. And like Moneyball, Affleck’s new movie is about the ins and outs of how the sports community works beyond the games.
As someone who has never cared about sports, it takes a lot for me to enjoy and recommend a movie in this genre. But if the storytelling and execution are done well, like Jerry Maguire and Moneyball were, then a movie about athletes can occasionally grab my attention. Fortunately for Affleck and team, Air is now one of those pictures.
Set in 1984 Oregon, Air begins by showing us that the sneaker world is on its last thread. Adidas, Converse and Nike are all below 50% in revenue, with Nike dead-last at 17%. The shoe corporations are desperately trying to grab the attention of up-and-coming basketball stars, and none of them are sticking.
Nike guru Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) is losing his mojo and can’t seem to come up with a strategy to recruit Nike’s next spokesperson. Until, suddenly, he has an epiphany. Michael Jordan is predicted to be the future of basketball, and Sonny thinks if this is true, and Nike puts all its priorities on Jordan, then the future of their sneakers is saved.
Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker and Affleck himself co-star as Sonny’s Nike co-workers; Chris Messina plays Jordan’s agent; and Viola Davis is Jordan’s mother.
Right away, Air presents us with a stellar montage of 1980s pop culture set to Dire Straits’ classic “Money for Nothing.” It perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the dialogue-heavy historical dramedy.
The stakes are low, and the plot is simple. We know Nike and MJ are going to take over basketball. Even so, the cast and Affleck’s direction are entertaining enough for a Friday or Saturday night at the theater.
Air is the most recent, best example of an adult-oriented film being fun and enjoyable with just good chemistry from everyone involved.