When we were children, we used to imagine who we want to become: astronauts, firefighters, top-models, whoever. We would change our dream jobs almost every single day - simply because it was more fun to do so. Apparently some people live their lives as if they are still playing in the courtyard; they easily change their occupations, looks, even characters. Catch Me If You Can is about such a man.
This is a true story about Frank Abagnale Jr. who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars’ worth of checks as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor. He admires his father and from him he learns how to manipulate people and systems. Of course, he attracted attention of the police forces, and in particular of Carl Hanratty, man in charge of falsifications in the US. The pursuit that ensues is the main focus of the movie.
The plot is based on the autobiographical book by Frank Abagnale Jr. himself, where he describes his adventures, and despite the huge potential that the book had to offer to the moviemakers in terms of the characters, relationships etc, the movie turned out to be nice extra rather than the stand alone piece of art.
The movie lacks personality. Charisma of real Frank Abagnale Jr. did not allow Steven Spielberg to put anything personal in the movie. It is simply re-telling of the book; the director or the screenplay writers don’t have their own opinions on the matters going on, they simply take the back seat and show us what happened to the main character. This approach made the movie automatically inferior to the book – the audience still needs guidance; good movie is always a dialogue, not a monologue, not a dry ascertaining of facts. It is still amusing and interesting to watch, but poor Frank and Carl look like animals in the zoo rather than humans with human feelings and emotions. It starts to feel artificial game of cat and mouse.
The famous director failed to inhale life in the characters. Little surprise that the star cast didn’t manage to do it either. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks clearly do their best. DiCaprio convincingly plays immature kid with little understanding of consequences of his actions. Hanks convincingly plays workaholic cop. But the lack of conflict, lack of deep interactions means that the characters don’t evolve, and in the end of the movie we see the same two chaps that we saw in the beginning. Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams – they all play their parts perfectly, creating exactly the characters they were asked to create. Shame they still look unnatural.
And in the end, all the action around the master of reincarnations simply leads to the thought that maybe exciting, fulfilling life doesn’t need to be full of action and pursuits and God-knows-what. Maybe what people actually need to live truly interesting lives is the presence of other people, who would guide, teach and just talk meaningful talks. Who needs all the checks and all the millions if there is nobody around to tell you where to spend it?
The story of the man who never stopped being a small child is worth watching only for the sake of this idea.
VERDICT: Good illustration to the book, amusing and interesting, even though it fails as the movie.