Air, which premiered at SXSW on March 18, is in no way an underdog story. Or even a story about sports. Or even one about Michael Jordan. It’s a story about knowing your worth and fighting for it. As Jason Bateman said, it’s also “an American business story, and they made like a rock show out of that.”
Director Ben Affleck assembled a dream team for this film; a cast that displays some of their best work to date. You’ll see knock out performances by Chris Messina, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Julius Tennon and Affleck himself. But it’s Matt Damon and Viola Davis that will move you most. Damon says this the greatest job he’s ever had, calling it an “absolute joy” to work on this film.
When Affleck asked MJ who he’d like to play his mother, the legendary athlete said, “Well, it has to be Viola Davis.” While introducing the EGOT winner at the SXSW closing night premiere, Affleck called Davis “the best actor in the world.”
Asked about her performance as Jordan’s mother Dolores, Davis told the audience it was an honor and it just felt right. She went on to explain that Dolores was born in a generation where women’s dreams were their kids. And she relates because, as she stated, “We believe in our kids more than anything else.”
As mentioned, while the film revolves around MJ, you will not see an actor portray him on screen. That was a deliberate choice and we highly respect Affleck’s decision. There truly is no one that could fill his shoes (you see what we did there?). But how do you tell a story about Michael Jordan and never see him?
“When you are that person, when you mean that much, when you become something more than a hero or an athlete or even an icon, you start to become an idea to people. You touch them and you just represent hope and excellence and greatness. You are also one of a kind. There’s no way I was ever going to ask an audience to believe that anyone other than Micheal Jordan was Michael Jordan.”Director Ben Affleck
Air is an emotional rollercoaster. We laughed, we cried, we tapped along to the nostalgic soundtrack and, ultimately, we stood up and cheered with the rest of the enthusiastic SXSW audience.
If you’re wondering if you should see this film, we have one thing to say to you. Just do it.
Air premieres in theaters on April 5, 2023.
This review was written with assistance from Spill the ATX Managing Editor Lola Hagopian.