By Alison Perelman, For The Miami Student
“Catch Me If You Can” (2002) follows the life of Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), one of America’s youngest and most talented con men.
Frank’s life is turned upside down when his family suffers financial trouble, forcing them to move and leading to his parents’ divorce. Instead of dealing with the problems now facing him, he decides to run away. Using his skills and smarts, he is able to con millions of dollars’ worth of checks while pretending to be a Pan Am pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, all while evading FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks).
Despite the fact that it is based on a true story, one of the most interesting things about this movie is the way it portrays Frank and the actions he takes to be successful. Everyone knows that lying, stealing and cheating your way in life is bad, but we can’t help but love Frank anyway.
We can all relate to Frank in the beginning. He’s like any other typical teenager — sleeping in, skipping school, admiring his father and his parents’ love for each other. Frank tries to stay positive as his world slowly falls apart, but it eventually becomes too much. He realizes the severity of the situation, yet does not want to make a decision. We’ve all had that same moment, in which we don’t want to face responsibilities and think that it would be easier to run away.
Frank actually does.
Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson does a superb job with the storyline. He creates an innocent character with whom everyone can relate, then transforms Frank into someone everyone wants to be. He also constructs the perfect cat-and-mouse dynamic. Frank’s cleverness keeps the audience on its toes, while Carl is the classic detective, always humorously one step behind.
DiCaprio does an excellent job charming the audience. His performance makes us forget that Frank is only a kid and what he’s doing is actually illegal. Even when we are reminded of these things, it’s impossible not to cheer him on because it’s just so fun to watch. Which is also why the audience is not able to hate Carl, despite the fact that he’s supposed to be the bad guy. Hanks manages to portray Carl as a man loyal to his job, yet sympathetic to Frank’s naivety.
“Catch Me If You Can” is not just a way for us to live out a fantasy alongside Frank, though. Behind each plot point is a powerful message on how everyone should live their lives.
Throughout the movie, Frank and his father repeat the same quote. “Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”
They both claim to be the second mouse, which we should all strive to be as well. We should all work hard to get the things we want and never give up.
Frank’s version of this, however, becomes a little distorted. He doesn’t truly work hard for the life he has, which may not even be the life he wants. Later in the movie, Carl points out that, “Sometimes, it’s easier living the lie.” This allows Frank and the audience to realize that, while it might be easier, more appealing and even glamorous, it’s not the best life to live after all.
“Catch Me If You Can” is the perfect combination of a crime drama and comedy that comes full circle. It’s great to watch for simple entertainment, while also leaving the audience with a few moral lessons.
“Catch Me If You Can” will be shown on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 8:30 p.m. in Central Quad.