Matinee (1993)

8th February 2022

Matinee is now available to stream, rent or buy.

Mention the name Joe Dante, and it’s usually GremlinsExplorers or Innerspace that come to mind. Yet, it’s Matinee that is undoubtedly one of his most personal movies. In Matinee, Dante takes his inspiration from the 50s comic books and films that inspired him as a kid while exploring the true horror of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Placing his story in the hands of a character not dissimilar to movie mogul and showman William Castle, Dante weaved social discussion with escapism and teenage dreams. 

It’s 1962, and John F Kennedy is president of the United States. However, the optimism of his inauguration in January 1961 has been replaced by paranoia and the fear of a possible Nuclear War. Movie Mogal and live theatre impresario Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman) is preparing to launch his latest monster flick, ‘Mant’ and where better place than Key West, Florida? After all, just off the coast, the horror and fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolds, leaving everyone on edge. 

Gene (Simon Fenton) lives on the local army base with his younger brother, mum and absent navy dad. He spends his days buried in monster magazines, movies, and science fiction as the world changes around him, with his best friend, Stan (Omri Katz), sharing his passions. Gene knows things are changing as Stan slowly begins to shun the local cinema for the lure of girls. But as Woolsey’s new film arrives in town accompanied by the great man himself, Gene and Stan cannot avoid the allure of seeing ‘MANT’ on the big screen in a cinema rigged with theatrical tricks.

Matinee is a love letter to a now-bygone era of cinematic showmanship and its ability to enthral, entice and reflect the fears of the real world outside the auditorium doors. If, like me, you spent your weekends as a kid in the safety of a cinema where your feet were stuck to the floor, Matinee is a sublime slice of nostalgic movie-making. This is Dante’s childhood and teens, laced with elements of fiction as he reminds us of the power cinema can wield in our younger years and the reality that the adult world is far scarier than anything on the screen. Matinee marks the end of the fantasy and wonder of our early teens through a glorious haze of buttered popcorn, movie magic, cheers, and screams. It is the ultimate love letter to cinema, dreams and teenage awakenings. 


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