Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Frank Abagnale Jr), Tom Hanks (Carl Hanratty), Christopher Walken (Frank Abagnale Sr), Martin Sheen (Roger Strong), Nathalie Baye (Paula Abagnale), Amy Adams (Brenda Strong)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg is a simplistic, unsophisticated filmmaker incapable of humor, irony, nuances, or subtlety. This time, he and scriptwriter Jeff Nathanson have created a lovely movie all about con men who need love too. I’m sure in the hands of anyone from Oliver Stone to even Quentin Tarantino, this movie would revel in the irony of a conman who finally finds his true vocation in working for the very people who busted his ass. But what does Mr Spielberg know? Again, he lets his daddy issues run amok all over this movie, turning it into a humorless 1960s porn show about ugly slacks and silly bimbos.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives a valiant and charismatic performance as Frank Abagnale Jr, a young conman who has it made not just because of the lack of sophisticated computers in those days but also because of his irresistible likability and infinite capability for bullshit. Watching him flatter, lie, and swindle his way from being an airline pilot to a doctor to a lawyer has an exuberance in it thanks to Mr DiCaprio’s easy and roguish swagger. He may not be able to live down the ridicule of his role in Titanic, but in my opinion, he makes this movie.
But Mr Spielberg spends so long showing how Frank is just a poor sad man who just needs his mommy and daddy’s love that I know a big sad moment is inevitable. And I’m right. Mr Spielberg sets up Frank’s redemption with the gravity of Moses reading out the Ten Commandments, it’s ridiculous. Any trace of humor, irreverence, and irony this movie sorely need is provided by Mr DiCaprio. But it is all seriousness when it comes to Tom Hanks’s lifeless performance as an FBI agent who busts Frank only to turn it into all about him too: he missed his daughter growing up, and now he wastes taxpayers’ money while working out his issues on Frank.
This movie wants me to love Frank so badly, not as a rogue but as a misunderstood stray that it seems to forget that Frank is a conman first. There is also a lazy treatment of females in this story that is probably another extension of Mr Spielberg’s own mommy/daddy issues: women in this story are symbols rather than characters. They are either vapid fun objects (the whores, the bimbos) or mother/wife/victim icon (Frank’s own mother and the girlfriend who – gasp! – had an abortion). All these women betray Frank and his father, so Mr Spielberg wants me to understand that Frank is just misunderstood in the end. All he needs is love. All we need is love. All Mr Spielberg needs is a bloody shrink.
Catch Me If You Can could’ve been a fun, grand movie, but too bad the folks writing and directing this movie seems to believe that they are out to spread the love around the world. Pfffft and lemons to them all, I say!