‘AIR’ rates R
There was a time when Adidas and Converse were all the rage with their sneakers and Nike didn’t have the cachet of being cool or hip as athletes didn’t flock to the brand founded by Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight.
Then came 1984 and a rookie named Michael Jordan, who was destined to be the greatest basketball star of all time, became, albeit unknowingly, the catalyst for the transformation of sports marketing.
Based on the players behind the scenes, from Jordan’s parents to the sports agent to Nike executives, “Air” is a fable about capitalism, advertising and marketing, with the rise of a superstar being rather incidental to the bigger picture.
If you go to the movies, it’s no surprise the result of determined Nike basketball pundit Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), who jeopardizes his career and even his company’s fortunes in a bold move to sign a contract with a player who was sold on Adidas.
How do you manage to create tension, let alone tension, in behind-the-scenes plans and negotiations whose ultimate outcome is already known? Leave it to Ben Affleck’s dual roles as director and the role of Zen-like company honcho Phil Knight.
Early scenes show Sonny as a die-hard player at the Las Vegas craps tables, trading with reckless abandon in high-stakes games. Sonny takes the same rash stance when he’s convinced he can recruit an untried newbie into a lucrative deal.
Obstacles stand in Sonny’s way as fellow marketing vice president Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) and former college player and NBA draft pick Howard White (Chris Tucker) are somewhat dubious about securing Jordan, despite them its realize potential greatness.
Full of confidence, Sonny confronts his boss with a daring call to take enormous financial risks for Jordan. Phil Knight apparently needed a reminder of the 10 principles from a wild Nike memo, most of which are flashed up at one point or another throughout the film.
Sonny also shamelessly ignores protocol to deal directly with a player’s agent when he flies to North Carolina to speak directly to Jordan’s mother, Deloris (Viola Davis).
The result of this breach of professional decency is that Sonny becomes the target of a barrage of profane abuse from fast-talking agent David Falk (Chris Messina). This scene alone deserves an R rating, but it’s brutal and outrageously hilarious.
Sonny is at his game when, at a meeting with the Jordan family at the Nike offices, he delivers an eloquent, if somewhat maudlin, off-the-cuff pitch that seals the deal that will result in a single-player shoe was designed around.
Sport is most often a backdrop for “Air” as most of the action takes place in boardrooms and meetings. It’s a fascinating story that can “grow,” as Phil Knight would say.
“APPLES NEVER FALL” COMES TO PEACOCK
Australian author Liane Moriarty has already seen two of her New York Times bestselling books, Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, adapted into limited drama series on streamers HBO and Hulu, respectively.
Big Little Lies was snapped up for the film and television rights by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, and they starred in a series that went on to win multiple Emmy Awards.
Nicole Kidman returned to a star cast that included Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale and Michael Shannon for the series adaptation of Nine Perfect Strangers.
Her latest novel, Apples Never Fall, another New York Times bestseller, was selected by Peacock for a drama series currently in the works.
Annette Bening and Sam Neill star as Joy and Stan Delaney, former tennis coaches who still win tournaments with what appears to be an enviably content family.
After selling the family business, Joy and Stan have all the time in the world to relax while their four adult children are busy running their own lives.
However, Joy Delaney has disappeared and her children are examining their parents’ marriage and family history with new eyes.
Is her disappearance related to her mysterious houseguest from last year? Or were things never as rosy in the Delaney household as they seemed?
Alison Brie (AMC’s “Mad Men”) plays Amy, the eldest Delaney child and the black sheep of the family. Still renting a dorm room, Amy jumps from one career path to the next. Amy is a mess.
Jake Lacy (HBO series The White Lotus) plays Troy, the second-oldest child whose competitiveness he developed as a young tennis player and is now his greatest asset as a venture capitalist.
Set in the competitive tennis milieu, Apples Never Fall takes us into the darkest secrets of a family and asks, “Can we ever really know the people closest to us?”
Given the author’s track record, this adaptation could prove interesting.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.