I often forget about Catch Me If You Can. I own it on DVD but really only watch it if I catch it on cable. It’s a shame because this film has amazing performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, and Christopher Walken and is among Steven Spielberg’s best work. I think what makes this movie so hard to remember, is that it’s so unlike anything we’re used to by these titans of the medium. The film tells the true story of how Frank Abagnale Jr survives on the run by forging checks and creating multiple fake identities, only to attract the attention of FBI agent Frank Hanratty, who makes it his goal to capture the kid.
This film is about growing up. We all had a moment in our childhood where we learned an adult we admire was less than perfect, so we can relate to the pain Frank Jr feels when he learns the truth about his father and sees the collapse of is parent’s seemingly perfect marriage. Frank Jr’s reaction is to run from the pain and create new realities for himself. It isn’t until he meets and falls for the troubled Brenda (Amy Adams) that while it’s been fun watching him elude the FBI and convince many he was a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, but he’s still a boy who wants his family back together.
Divorce is a common theme in Spielberg’s work. In an entirely fictional scene, Frank Jr visits his father and attempts to impress him with all his manufactured success. The real Frank Jr loved this addition because he often dreamed of making his father proud and finding a way of bringing his parents back together. It isn’t until he discovers his father has died and his mother has had a child with her new husband, that he allows himself to be caught.
While Leonardo DiCaprio is clearly the star, the supporting cast really knocks it out of the park. Tom Hanks clearly had fun making this film, getting to use an exaggerated accent and disguise his famous face. The role reminds me of Hanks’ earlier work, when he played less heroic men. It’s interesting to watch as the relationship between Frank Jr and Hanratty evolves. While they start out as rivals, they slowly begin to care for each other because neither has anyone else in the world.
Christopher Walken is great as Frank Sr, who obviously passed on his ability to bend the truth to his only son. While he plays himself up as a great businessman who has the perfect marriage for his son, it is quickly revealed that he has not been completely honest on his taxes which leads his wife to leave him for one of his friends. Though he destroys his family, it’s hard to not feel sorry for the guy. He isn’t a malicious person, just a guy who wanted to be respected and maybe wasn’t so good at paying his taxes. Walken so frequently does ridiculous stuff, it’s nice to see him in a quality project.
The film has a really fun tone to it. If you haven’t seen this mostly forgotten gem, I would encourage you to check it out.