Air (2023)
April 8, 2023 4:08 AM - Subscribe

Set in the mid-1980s, the film centers on Sonny Vacarro (Matt Damon), who Nike's Phil Knight (Ben Affleck, also directing) has hired to save their failing basketball division. It’s Sonny’s job to scout the upcoming NBA draft and select the rookie talent that would be best to build brands around. So while others want to use the limited budget on a handful of prospects, including future NBA mid-carders like Sam Bowie and Mel Turpin, Sonny sees something in this scrawny kid from North Carolina: Michael Jordan. And Sonny wants to do something unprecedented, which is put the entire budget on Jordan and nobody else.

Ryan Scott at Slashfilm compares it to Moneyball: "[What's] most interesting about "Air" is that it is, on the surface, just a movie where a bunch of guys talk on the phone or talk in an office building while trying to make a big deal happen. There's not a lot of action in the cinematic sense, nor is there something as dramatic as a kidnapping like we had in "Gone Baby Gone." Instead, what we're left with is a sports story that isn't really about the sport in question (in this case basketball) and is, instead, about the people behind the scenes of one very specific element of the game."

Aisha Harris at NPR was less impressed: Air is convinced there's enough nail-biting tension to be gleaned from this conundrum and enough audience buy-in of the Jordan mythos and brand to overcome such a flimsy premise. And to be fair, the performers are fully committed to what little character development they're given – Davis is, per usual, giving off convincing gravitas; Messina's prickly and lends some levity to the proceedings. But just as there are many meetings that could've been an email, this is one movie that could've been a narrative podcast."

But Patrick Willems's one-line review might summarize the appeal to go and see this Amazon production in theatres: "Ben knows what the people want: movies about Matt Damon being good at his job."

Air was produced by Affleck and Damon's new company, Artist's Equity, which aims to redistribute film profits among cast and crew. He discusses this (and his meme-ability) in a recent interview in Hollywood Reporter.
posted by Gin and Broadband (8 comments total)
I hadn't heard about this movie till this post. A movie about a knowledge worker being really good at their job? Full of office meetings? I am super into it and will try to watch it!!
posted by brainwane at 5:59 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]

I liked this. It’s kind of lightweight but also does a good job of capturing how important your office job can feel and what it means to people.
posted by jeoc at 7:48 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]

It was...okay. Reasonably agreeable, but too much "hey, remember this thing from the 80s?"

There's a more interesting story to tell about a Sonny Vaccaro-like figure, but it's not here.
posted by praemunire at 10:04 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]

Matt Damon, yes, but Chris Tucker though? Phew, seeing him on screen made me realize I've been missing him. And apparently he threw in enough improv'd lines he got screenwriting credit too? The behind the scenes of this production is as interesting to me as the behind the scenes of the production (of the myth) on screen.
posted by cendawanita at 4:19 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]

I’m not a movie person and even less a sports person. I only saw this because my kid wanted to. I enjoyed the movie overall, but Viola Davis is brilliantly understated in a role that would have been very easy to overdo. She’s a treasure.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:08 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]

I watched this with my wife. The opening instantly struck me as one of the most perfect introductions to a lost age I have seen in a movie.

Jason Bateman's scene about his daughter showcased what an amazing actor he is and simultaneously showed how the script allowed the characters to exist outside of this slice of life.

Matt Damon's current arc of 'hypercompetent middle-aged men who exist to show that a love for something allows you to win at a thing" is one of my favorites.
posted by gwydapllew at 8:46 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]

As someone who loves competence porn and spreadsheet cinema (even if this didn't have spreadsheets, it was spiritually a spreadsheet movie), this was right up my alley, even though I've never owned a Nike product in my life.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 5:56 AM on April 16

See, I love competence porn and will absolutely be looking up spreadsheet cinema (haven't heard that phrase before but it sounds like my kind of thing), but I just could not get enthused about this. I know the outcome, so there's no suspense. And if they'd failed, well so what? Jordan and Nike would have just been separately rich instead of stupidly, ridiculously rich in a symbiotic way.

The part I found most interesting, of Jordan's mother negotiating for him to get an ongoing cut rather than a one-off cheque, was just chucked in at the end. Affleck and Damon say it's important to them, and I believe them. But it wasn't important enough to them to make it the centre of the story.
posted by harriet vane at 7:37 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]

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