December 24, 2002
What a Catch!
Another beauty from Spielberg
by Bruce Kirkland -- Toronto Sun
Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can dances across the screen with the effortless grace of Fred Astaire and the sexy provocation
of Ginger Rogers.
I don't mean that it's a musical. Catch Me is a family drama, a romantic comedy, a nimble, playful thriller and a morality play all
in one. The dance is in the beautiful fluidity of this 1960s-era story. The movie glides across the screen like Astaire & Rogers
used to do on polished marble floors.
Catch Me has a slightly surreal tone and look. Reality is heightened. Colours are brightened. Scenes are shot in bright light that
gives the illusion of soft focus. In content and style, Spielberg has dramatically shifted gears from his recent films, the Kubrick
epic A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and the futuristic police flick Minority Report.
There are also some wonderful performances, a critical element Spielberg's films never fail to deliver. Here Leonardo DiCaprio is
smooth, sweet, deep and delightful in the lead role. Combined with his rugged, visceral performance in Gangs Of New York and it's
clear DiCaprio has risen again.
As DiCaprio's loving father here, Christopher Walken offers one of his most profound and charming performances in years. Spielberg
has stripped away the menace that other directors too often and too lazily exploit in the actor.
Catch Me If You Can is pitched as "the true story of a real fake." That's not quite true. The movie is inspired by a real-life saga
but so much poetic licence is taken that the story has shifted off its foundations in truth.
No matter, in this case. This is not a history lesson but a compelling little tale of deception and longing. The movie conjures the
remarkable teenaged escapades of Frank W. Abagnale, who today is a consultant to the FBI.
But, when Abagnale was 16, his parents (Walken and French actress Nathalie Baye) split up and divorced and he was devastated.
The handsome young lad ran away from home and supported himself by forging cheques. The fraud escalated and he posed as an airline
pilot, a doctor and a lawyer to maintain his cover. He never flew a plane nor performed an operation. Instead, he posed to legitimize
himself, eventually passing up to $4 million in bad cheques.
His charm also allowed him to romance dozens of women (including, in the movie, Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams).
The scams are true. Spielberg and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who adapted Abagnale's autobiographical book, stuck to the facts of
the scams because truth is stranger than fiction. But family and police matters were dramatized.
In the movie, a cat-and-mouse game, DiCaprio's Abagnale Jr. is chased by a stoic and relentless, yet fundamentally decent, FBI agent.
This fictional construct, a composite of real-life agents, is played with a buttoned-down demeanour by Tom Hanks, who perfectly
serves the movie without a trace of flash or style. He rightly lets DiCaprio steal scenes.
In the end, good triumphs but rarely, at least in recent years, has a scam artist flick been this much fun. Think The Sting,
Midnight Run, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.
Catch Me If You Can is in good company.
Thanks to Shaolin !