January 15, 2004

When we caught Catch Me If You Can

Movie Review #2 in an ongoing series. Minor spoilers abound. Consider yourself warned.

We rented the DVD to watch on my birthday night. I disliked Minority Report, Spielberg's last outing, but this I liked. A lot, in fact. Just goes to prove once again that the director is not the alpha and the omega when it comes to filmmaking. Everyone involved did good work, particularly DiCaprio (who apparently shepherded this to production) and the writer, who wrote a sharp, well constructed script, not easy to do with a biographical story. But the main character made the movie for me.

I think part of the allure of a story like this is the way we all identify with the protagonist. We imagine pulling off quick-thinking stunts like conning a pilot's uniform out of an airline or learning lawyerspeak from courtroom dramas on TV -- and then having the chutzpah to use it in front of a real judge. Most of all, we imagine that we too could pull off the cons with charm and Frank Abagnale's eager grace. Becoming someone else, someone with more power and prestige, stepping into larger shoes, in a way it's the American Dream on steroids and minus business/medical/law school. In this case the character was a teenager pretending adulthood, which added a kind of poignance to the make-believe. And the fact that there really was a Frank Abagnale Jr. and this was (more or less) his true story adds a level of fascination: this really happened (more or less). People really were this fooled (rather more than less).

But if that were it, this would be as forgettable as the Harry Potter movies. Instead it's lingered in my memory. Why? The ending. No, I won't give it away, but it did what all the best endings do -- it surprised and satisfied and and gave the entire preceding story a somewhat deeper meaning and rightness. And it too really happened.

We watched the DVD extras, curious to find out more about this Abagnale guy. Tom Hanks, I think it was, said Frank can sell you anything because he seems so earnest. I think that's exactly it: he doesn't appear as much a charmer as earnest and invested in what he's saying. It's this very investment, this conviction, that's so compelling. Something to remember and use, huh?

Posted by Tamar at January 15, 2004 09:44 PM

And aren't the opening titles just brilliant??? Rumour has it they were created before the designers even saw the movie, which seems a bit hard to believe considering how well they capture the style & essence of the film. But ya gotta love 'em no matter what, I think.

Posted by: jms at January 16, 2004 01:00 PM

Oh yes, those opening titles are great. So James Bond in the sixties mixed with Pink Panther. Perfect for the movie.

Posted by: Tamar at January 17, 2004 10:56 PM