Matt Damon in Ben Affleck’s Ode to Michael Jordan – The Hollywood Reporter

by Ben Affleck Air operates in a registry of deep respect and reverence when it comes to its subject matter, his family and the sport he made his legacy of. The film, which premiered at SXSW, chronicles Nike’s intense campaign to sign Michael Jordan, then an NBA rookie, to his first sneakers contract in 1984. That contract, which ended a year before the first Air Jordans went public, changed Nike’s stance. reputation and changing the way players negotiate brand deals.

Corporate law movies and caucuses are rarely a good idea for anyone, but there are ways to energize them. jigsaw puzzle, for example, which also premiered at SXSW this year, has gone the genre route, turning the history of the video game licensing wars into a Cold War thriller. IN Air, Affleck tied himself to sentimentality, reaching for a narrative that recounts the Jordan-Nike deal like the story of legendary Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) trying to please the player’s mother, Deloris (Viola Davis). That direction allows Affleck, who plays Nike CEO Phil Knight in the film, to organize Air around the broad, agreeable themes of a standard sports movie even though there’s no action on the field.


Key point

Not a slam dunk, but score enough points.

Location: SXSW Film Festival (The Head)
Release date: Wednesday, April 5
Cast: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Matthew Maher, Marlon Wayans
Manager: Ben Affleck
Writer: Alex Convery

R-rated, 1 hour 52 minutes

For most audiences, Air would be worth watching just with its all-star cast — especially the reunion between Damon and Affleck. Their scenes possess a dynamism and intimacy that the rest of the film approaches but doesn’t always match. Old friends are as charismatic as Sonny — the man in charge of the company’s successful basketball division — and Phil trying to take Nike to the next level. (Prior to Jordan signing, the shoe company held a meager 17% of the market compared to competitors Adidas and Converse.) Their conversation took place in Phil’s niche vintage office (setup). The production design is by François Audouy) and provides insight into how both executives tried to balance the imagination of Nike’s raw origins with the company’s ambitions.

The film opens four years after Nike went public, a move that puts Phil under the orders of an almighty board. During an initial conversation, Phil reminded Sonny that he hired him to develop their basketball division, not sink it. Sonny responded by suggesting that going public was a mistake to the character of the company. The rude CEO from Philadelphia operates on a different plane from his meditative boss, who believes in focus groups and methodologies. Affleck plays Phil’s contradictions — as well as the man’s blind devotion to the bottom line and his obsession with Buddhism — as one of the film’s running jokes.

Phil and Sonny’s divergent ideologies are at odds when Sonny proposes to put all the money of the fledgling division into Michael Jordan. The boss disagrees, and he’s not the only skeptic. His teammates Howard White (Chris Tucker), Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) and George Raveling (Marlon Wayans), one of Jordan’s coaches at the 1984 Olympics, all tried to dissuade him. The dynamism of this group of co-workers and friends gives much of the film’s humor while giving us a deeper understanding of Nike’s philosophy. Then, when they star Peter Moore (Matthew Maher), Nike’s creative director, the film adopts — wonderfully — the poetic homage often given to the depiction of sport in sports. this drama genre into the process of designing a pair of shoes.

Sonny is not one to disapprove of an answer or ignore his instincts. After an important call with Jordan’s agent, David Falk (the hilarious Chris Messina), Sonny flies from Oregon to North Carolina to meet Jordan’s parents. Deloris (Davis) and James (Julius Tennon) turn out to be a tougher crowd than Sonny anticipated. They are immune to his salesman’s charms and are unfazed by his dramatic entrance to their property. Deloris, in particular, demanded a quiet respect, which Sonny, in awe, gave her.

Their conversation — it’s a talkative movie — marks a turning point Air. His questions appeal to the value Deloris places on her son’s family, fairness, and unquestionable greatness. Affleck shot these close-ups in an attempt to spark the growing mutual appreciation between the two, but the script (by Alex Convery) made it hard to buy. Although Deloris has a significant amount of screen time, her character feels underdeveloped to carry the full weight of her character. Airdramatic aspirations of. Davis gives us a glimpse of this woman’s inner self through her raised eyebrows, inquiring glances and rare approving smiles, but it feels like she’s working with a skinny body. bone. It could be argued that this minimalism is a way of conveying the quiet power of Deloris, a woman Jordan believes in for who he is. But it’s not enough there to stop her from feeling more like a collection of characters we’ve seen before than someone with a particular experience.

And important experiences. Sonny and Deloris are bound by a deep and unwavering belief in Jordan, but, as she suggests in one conversation, his strong sense of self is the product of the lessons she learns. she taught him. It was Deloris and his son’s understanding of their worth that led them to negotiate a contract that gave Jordan a percentage of the revenue from the sale of the Air Jordan.

Beneath the sentimentalism of Air are suggestions on an even more intriguing topic: How do you compensate people in a society organized on corporate greed? The third act of the film highlights and revolves around the concept of justice. Jordan’s contract has changed the way players make money from deals. A note just before the end of the credits tells us that Sonny will play a key role in taking on the NCAA and helping college athletes get paid for the commercial use of his portrait. Surname. All of this seems predictable considering Affleck’s recent venture: Last year, he and Damon founded Artists Equity, a production company that operates on a sharing model. profits in the hope of creating better deals for the filmmakers. It does Air like a letter of admiration — to Jordan, his family, the tenacious executives at Nike — and a statement about Affleck’s future intentions.

full credit

Venue: SXSW Film Festival (Headliners)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Production company: Amazon, Artists Equity, Mandalay Pictures, Skydance Media
Actors: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Matthew Maher, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis, Gustaf Skarsgård, Julius Tennon
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Screenwriter: Alex Convery
Producers: David Ellison, Jesse Sisgold, Jon Weinbach, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Madison Ainley, Jeff Robinov, Peter Guber and Jason Michael Berman
Executive Producers: Dana Goldberg, John Graham, Don Granger, Kevin Halloran, Michael Joe, Jordan Moldo, Jesse Sisgold, Peter E. Strauss, Drew Vinton
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Production designer: François Audouy
Costume designer: Charlese Antoinette Jones
Editor: William Goldenberg
Music: Andrea von Foerster
Casting directors: Lindsay Graham, Mary Vernieu

R-rated, 1 hour 52 minutes

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