AIR Review

A film of conversations, processes, and considerations. Ben Affleck directs with ease allowing the inherent intrigue of the story to pull its weight while everyone else lathers on the charm. Plenty to dig into thematically if you so choose especially the icky territory of giving a certain level of underdog merit to what was already a million dollar corporation in 1984, but the thing is...that's not really what this movie is about. 

Affleck knows the terrain he's venturing into when he takes on a movie about said massive corporation finding a way to market an inessential product (shoes are essential, sure, but $200 shoes are not) to underpriveleged and marginalized communities. He knows this isn't a story of the American dream the way he undoubtedly knew it would be marketed as, but rather how companies and brands had become such obscure ideas behind the recognizable spokespeople they put in their commercials that it took a company doing the inverse - making said spokesperson the face of their brand (and changing the business around it as they did so) - to make middle class Americans comfortable with the idea of throwing down that kind of dough on sneakers. It's also a movie that revels in the aforementioned processes - showing people who are good at what they do doing it well - which makes for some of the films best scenes. Like the song that serves as Affleck's thesis here, we see the desperation and the details in the small moments and hear the energy - the hope, if one might be so kind - in the big, sweeping speeches. 

My favorite part of AIR though is that it - at the very least - encourages ideas of boldness, of taking the big bet, of striking out on your own, even if in this particular story that only means signing a well-compensated endorsement deal. Alex Convery's screenplay is intent on emphasizing time and time again that in 1984 Nike was the least popular shoe in professional basketball and that it's only thanks to the fortuitous eye of Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) who, with a little help from Arthur Ashe, came up with the idea to hang Nike's entire basketball line on the promise of Michael Jordan. Simple facts: Nike wasn't cool, but they had the most soul (sole?) and Jordan, with strong guidance from his mother Deloris (a wonderful Viola Davis), no doubt liked the idea of being a pioneer; a simultaneous rule-breaker and trendsetter. It also doesn't hurt that AIR is a sturdy and entertaining old school drama that hits all the right spots when simply viewed as a triumphant story even if that story is more about making a living than how to live.

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