“Air” – nothing but net

“We’re on offensive. All the time.”

Story: It’s 1984, and marketing guru Sonny Vaccaro is trying to figure out the best way to keep the Nike Basketball Division afloat. Because they’re so far behind Converse and Adidas in terms of pro sportswear, they’re well nigh invisible. So why not aim high, and go for the top rookie, Michael Jordan? Nike doesn’t have much to give, but then Sonny has an idea…

Genre I’d put it in: Gold Medal Sports Docudramas
Release Date: 2023
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the true story of how Nike signed then-rookie Michael Jordan, and cemented their brand as basketball must-haves, moving them out of their “just joggers” rep.

Gotta say: I don’t know sportsball. My idea of great sneakers is anything on clearance at DSW. (And my aeons old Converse low-tops. But that’s another convo for another day.) So what brought me to this screening? The idea of seeing Damon and Affleck onscreen together. Though they like to play off each other, it’s a treat to see them share screen time. Plus, the additional enticement of Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, and Chris Messina did not hurt. I grabbed my pen and hit the multiplex. And I had a great time.

What director Affleck does here is cast many well-known comedic performers in this sportsball movie, allowing them to put their copious skills to work. And these fellas know how to bring the big emotions, while giving just enough cheeky back-and-forth to the proceedings, so it feels like actual human beings in a high pressure situation, rather than talented folks spouting dialogue. The screenplay by Alex Convery – originally on 2021’s Black List of most-liked screenplays yet to be produced – balances raw determination, snarky office banter, and love of the game, creating a film that will please anyone who’s down for a solid story well told. If you’re hip with the cool basketball and sneaker kids? Well, you probably already have your tickets. Smart move.

The art direction, costuming, and even hair & makeup, are on freakin’ point in Air. They nail the early 80s aesthetic, which was a strange stew of laid-back 70s hangers-on, and neon 80s glory that was only starting to make its presence known. But I’ve really gotta shout-out how Air uses the look of their characters to let the audience know who they are. (Affleck’s wig is truly a masterpiece y’all.) Something that really jumped out at me was Viola Davis’ Deloris Jordan; she carries herself like the head of the family she is. She dresses for every occasion. But her manicure is slightly outgrown, to show that however amazing Michael is, and no matter how impressive Deloris is, the Jordans are still a regular family, untouched by the greatness that was to come. It’s subtle, but I loved that touch. I also love that “grape” colored Porche Affleck’s Phil Knight drives. But the closest I’ll get to that is a manicure with a color dupe. Ah well.

The story plays out with lots of suspense and “what if” moments, even though we all know what ultimately happened. That’s due to focusing closely on the individuals striving to make the deal with Michael Jordan actually happen, even though it seemed like an impossibility. Damon’s Vaccaro, Bateman’s Rob Strasser, Tucker’s Howard White, and wonderful character actor Matthew Maher as Nike engineer/designer Peter Moore, work together to keep the emotions high, which kept my heart in my throat. Special shout-out to Chris Messina’s David Falk, a sports agent who lets everyone know in no uncertain terms exactly where he stands. The back-and-forth between Messina and Damon is deliciously adversarial, and I loved every second of it.

Throw in a melting pot of 80s music – everything from Night Ranger to Violent Femmes – that cements the strange hodgepodge that was that decade trying to figure itself out, And Air is not only a showcase of a moment in history, but a love letter to that crazy moment in time. Don’t really “get” sports, or sneakers? Me neither. But I absolutely loved Air. If you’re into masterfully well made stories? You will too.

#Protip: Yeah, you know I’m digging the delicious 80-ness of the costuming here. While Women’s Wear Daily has a great article, it’s behind a paywall, so… But Footwear News talks about how costumer Charlese Antoinette Jones used the Nike brand as seasoning rather than the main course. As it actually was back in the day…’til Mike came to town.

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
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