Flix at :48: Air
With an all-star cast, a true story about real people, and lots of sports statistics, the new film Air
seems to have it all to be a successful crowd pleaser. Directed by and co-starring Ben Affleck
(The Tender Bar, 2021), and filled with white hetero ambition, this film could easily be a rodeo
of egocentric bro worship. But it's not that. Or at least.....it's not that entirely.
Air is the underdog story of Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon, The Last Duel, 2021), a basketball
marketing executive at Nike who defied numerous odds to get NBA legend Michael Jordan to
sign an endorsement deal with the shrinking shoe brand in 1984. This deal revolutionized the
marketing of professional athletes, the design of the shoes they wore, and how much money
they could generate. Sonny Vaccaro's visionary work has been shown on an episode of the ESPN
TV documentary series 30 for 30 in 2015 and the documentary film One Man and His Shoes in
Being a behind-the-scenes biographical drama, Air is devoted to imparting as much background
information and content on past events as possible. Pop culture nods from the 1980s are
abundant, and almost every scene has dialogue explaining the historical context of the time,
from Nike's financial status to Michael Jordan's untested freshness to the established rules of
the sports management business.
But because so much of the dialogue works to paint a picture
rich with historical facts, the film feels more like a didactic review than an interesting story
about people working hard to achieve an impossible victory. More than once during this film I
thought, "Am I in a college business course learning the history of Nike's marketing? Or am I in a
movie theater being entertained?"
Evidently, Air tries to be a film doing both. The original screenplay was written by first-time screenwriter
Alex Convery, and the screenplay was heavily re-written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon making important
changes (although neither of those stars have a writing credit on this film). Whatever those changes were,
Air feels too instructional to make any emotional connection with viewers.
The writing and acting aren't horrible, but they fail to make any lasting impression of these people's lives and
work. Co-stars Jason Bateman (Ozark, 2017-2022), as Nike's director of marketing Rob Strasser, and Viola
Davis (The Woman King, 2022) as Michael Jordan's mother Deloris, both give great moments that add
some poignant or touching weight to the film. But it's not enough to help Air be anything more
than a list of interesting facts and a nice re-creation of important business meetings.
I'm not denying the facts of this story are interesting and the business meetings are
groundbreaking. I learned many new things about Nike and Michael Jordan's parents
throughout this film. Air just doesn't have enough heart or feeling to make it memorable