The Shoe Fits: Ben Affleck’s ‘Air’ is an Uplifting, Energetic and Awe-inspiring Story of Faith and Persistence
- The story revolves around Sonny Vaccaro — played by Matt Damon — a seemingly nondescript Nike executive who creates sports and sales history by recognizing the potential of Michael Jordan.
As a part of a pre-birthday celebration my daughter and I watched the inspiring biopic “Air.” The title of the film is derived from the launch of Air Jordan shoes. It is based on the role of Sonny Vaccaro in recruiting Michael Jordan for Nike in 1984.
I follow basketball but I am no expert. My father played the sport in school and my mother played volleyball. I played badminton and chess in school, but I am a movie enthusiast and I like good stories.
I have watched Ben Affleck’s films including: “Gone Baby Gone,” and “Argo ” (winner of 3 Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture in 2012). “Air” has an engaging story with solid screenplay. It has a witty conversational style about it as if the movie is like a friendly banter between great veteran actors.
Affleck devotes time to meticulous plotting and planning to make the movie seem effortless. I like his casual acting style, too, as the “ seemingly air-headed CEO (Phil Knight) and cofounder of Nike obsessed with his tailored suits, leather couch and a vintage “grape-hued Porsche. Contrary to his flamboyant style Affleck walks barefoot and is somewhat influenced by Zen Buddhism.
A bit like Elaine’s boss, J. Peterman, in “Seinfeld.” He comes across as very likable and comedic in contrast to his hard-working employees who perhaps know that his sardonic demeanor is a facade. Affleck has an artistic flair to play the roles of “ordinary” people performing “extraordinary” feats.
In “Air,” as a director, he highlights the role of Sonny Vaccaro, a sports aficionado and Nike recruiting expert whose job is to sign a basketball player to launch the Nike brand. Matt Damon makes his character larger than life by embodying a self-taught expert who is committed to the game of basketball and has a keen sense of game strategy, new players, rising sports stars and their potential.
Vaccaro makes an educated guess about a young North Carolina guard (Michael Jordan) and pins his hopes on him as a once-in-a-generation talent. Once he makes up his mind, Vaccaro puts all the proverbial eggs in the same basket by leaving no stone unturned to sign the “diffident” Jordan.
He does his homework extensively by talking to the neighboring gas station employee, reading the latest sports magazines, watching the same game over and over again, and trying to get the “low deal” from Jordan’s agent, the slick David Falk (Chris Messina), studying his competition and also having the temerity to go the extra mile.
Despite all odds, this slightly overweight, middle-aged hustler in worn-out khakis drives to Jordan’s home and pitches his offer to his wise mother Deloris (played superbly by the self-contained Viola Davis).
You have to watch the movie to see how he takes into account the weakness of his competitors like Adidas and Converse. Jordan likes the red and white Adidas shoes because they fit him well and they look trendy.
But Vaccaro pulls through all the hurdles. He designs a shoe by brain-storming with his old colleague and a recently divorced director of marketing Rob Strasser played by Jason Bateman, (who is apparently pessimistic but has an inherent faith in Vaccaro’s conviction) and his shoe designer savant Peter Moore (Matthew Maher). They pitch a bold and controversial shoe design for Jordan and christen it “Air Jordan.”
Vaccaro also tries to impress the Jordan family by introducing them to an African American player-turned-executive Howard White (Chris Tuckerwhose speech and eyes are animated).
The offer includes a $250, 000 salary guarantee, a brand-new red Mercedes Benz-E series and unique shoes. Vaccaro makes such an emotional speech to Jordan that is “irresistible.” Everyone, including the Buddhist CEO, wants to sign up Jordan after the speech. The deal is close but Jordan’s mother wants more – For the first time in the history of shoes and basketball a player gets a percentage of shoe sales. This is a historic moment. The incredible shoes became the “most popular” sneakers of all time among the young generation and baseball fans.
In the first year, Nike sold more than 100 million pairs. As we all know now that Jordan became a legendary superstar and the greatest basketball player in the history of the game. The movie creates a buzz in the advertising industry but is not a pandering commercial. If I am not mistaken, the used size 13 white and red Nike Air from Jordan’s fifth game of his 1984 rookie season sold at an auction for $1.47 million recently.
The cinematography weaves in current events and pop culture to create a sense of longing and wistfulness. The shoe certainly fits. “Air” is playing in theaters. A good movie to watch with family and friends.
With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.
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