“Stop Chasing Me!”: ‘Catch Me If You Can’ Review
True stories can often be portrayed in a very matter of fact and stale fashion, but that sentiment doesn’t apply to director Steven Spielberg’s ridiculously fun comedy Catch Me If You Can. Every once in a while Spielberg steps out of big budget entertainment to craft smaller stories influenced by one of his favorite filmmakers, Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). Catch Me If You Can is one of those films, starring the talented pairing of Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio; this true story ranks among one of Spielberg’s lightest, breeziest and most purely entertaining films ever.
The true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (played by a hilariously riveting Leonardo DiCaprio), who was able to perform successful cons by impersonating multiple professions and in the process gain millions of dollars, and the manhunt that followed led by FBI Agent Carl Hanratty is a pleasure to watch from moment one. Starting with a visually memorable opening credit sequence (if you’re a Mad Men fan I think this sequence clearly influenced Matthew Weiner for that show’s excellent title credits). Even The Simpsons parodied the title sequence to amazing effect in one of their later season episodes involving Homer and Marge wanting some time away from their kids.
It’s crazy to think that this film isn’t talked about more when referencing Spielberg’s filmography because in many ways it's Spielberg at the supreme top of his game. The '60s period setting works wonders for him: the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is beautiful to watch; even the score by John Williams (which was nominated for an Academy Award) is memorable and even incorporates some period appropriate sounds to compliment the memorable score. But without a doubt one of the best aspects about Catch Me If You Can is the balance of tones that Spielberg and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson incorporate. They carefully include elements of family, man on the run, entrepreneurship, authority, and independence but they’re all wrapped along this light and entertaining picture.
Spielberg never allows the film to become too dour and darker than it needs to be, he keeps the tone grounded but also pretty light. With Catch Me If You Can it also allowed DiCaprio to show a little bit more of his comedic side, his Frank Abagnale Jr. is an incredibly charming con man, and you get to see DiCaprio fully embrace that in a role that allows him to be funnier, lighter and in prime leading man mode. He’s effortlessly charming and that in a way best represents the film as well, it’s effortlessly entertaining thanks to Spielberg’s command of the movie. As with any Spielberg film, he’s always able to cast it perfectly. Aside from Hanks and DiCaprio the film benefits greatly from excellent supporting turns from Christopher Walken (who was also nominated for an Academy Award), Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams (in one of her first major roles), Ellen Pompeo, Elizabeth Banks and even the legendary James Brolin as an associate to Walken’s Abagnale Sr.
What makes Catch Me If You Can an endearing, and memorable Spielberg film is its light tone but also its vibrant performances. DiCaprio wonderfully demonstrates how insanely talented he is by showcasing a side of him that you don’t get to see from him that often. The fact that he can do something as dramatic as The Revenant and then transition into comedy with Catch Me If You Can just shows that he can carry a film in both genres. Catch Me If You Can ranks as one of Spielberg’s most underrated films; it’s effortlessly entertaining and visually stylish with a charming cast at the center.