Ben Affleck’s latest movie about hoop dreams, “Air,” received a rave reception Saturday at South by Southwest.
First reactions were glowing for the film, which tells the backstory of how then-rookie Michael Jordan partnered with Nike on his revolutionary Air Jordan shoe line. Affleck directs, produces and stars as Nike CEO Phil Knight.
“It was the most joyful professional experience,” Affleck told the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, on the red carpet before the film was unveiled on the Austin festival’s closing night. “There is a certain amount of magic, and maybe it’s Michael Jordan, you know. My whole life, I thought, as a director, if I could have Viola Davis in my movie, then I really will have made it.”
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Ben Affleck, Matt Damon reunited on the SXSW red carpet
The SXSW premiere reunited Affleck with his friend (and “Good Will Hunting” co-star and co-writer) Matt Damon, who stars as Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike executive who persaudes Knight to give Air Jordan a shot. They were joined on the red carpet by Davis and her husband Julius Tennon (who play Jordan’s parents Deloris and James Jordan) and castmates Jason Bateman, Chris Trucker and Chris Messina.
“She was a generation where your kids are your dreams,” Davis said of Deloris Jordan. For years in the Black community, “people weren’t allowed to dream because we weren’t given any opportunities. And so this was a woman who did believe in education, but she believed in tapping into that opportunity that her son had in playing with the NBA and getting the utmost for this extraordinary human being.”
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What critics are saying about Ben Affleck's new Michael Jordan movie 'Air':
Reaction was overwhelmingly positive, both on social media and in movie reviews:
"Entertaining, hilarious, hopeful, and the best movie of the year so far," The Hollywood Handle tweeted.
“The film applies – wonderfully – the poetic reverence usually reserved for portraying the sport in these types of dramas to the process of designing a shoe,” arts and culture critic Lovia Gyarkye wrote in her “The Hollywood Reporter” review. “Not a slam dunk, but scores enough points.”
Variety critic Peter Debruge praised the film’s casting of Davis: “The smartest thing Affleck could have done, as the EGOT winner is to acting what Jordan is to sports: Her strength inspires, and she can move us to tears while making it look easy,” he wrote in his review.
“Affleck & Damon’s chemistry is as alive as ever. Viola is simply great. Ben is shaping into a PHENOMENAL director,” Reel Movie Junkie tweeted.
“The script for AIR is just so damned good,” SXSW programmer Peter Hall tweeted. “It's remarkable to see that stellar cast make every exchange sing, and Affleck's impeccable direction making sure not a single moment or role gets lost or underserved.”
“Air” arrives in theaters April 5 and premieres on Amazon Prime Video at a later date.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon in 'Air': SXSW loves Michael Jordan movie