Catch Me If You Can

Steven Spielberg

BY Kevin ScottPublished Dec 7, 2012

It's apt how in the supplemental materials for Catch Me If You Can that director Steven Spielberg repeatedly refers to it as a "dessert" of a film. The kind of light and delectable confection impossible to put down once you've sunk your teeth into it, this cat-and-mouse treat also serves up some nutritional value, in the way it mines familiar touchstones of Spielberg's work — namely, the impact of absentee parents and rigors of alienated youth — to great effect. Teenager Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo Dicaprio) is devastated when his happy domestic life with his mom, Paula (Nathalie Baye), and father, Frank, Sr. (Christopher Walken), is turned upside down when they decide to separate. Forced to choose between the two of them, Frank opts to run away, beginning an eventful life of forging bad cheques and passing himself off as, alternately, a pilot, doctor and lawyer. All the while, FBI agent Carl Handratty (Tom Hanks) doggedly pursues him for years; it's a relationship that develops through mutual respect into something resembling more of a surrogate father/son dynamic. Much of the sheer delight stems from the relatable desire to want to be someone else, making it easy to root for Abagnale as he bounces around from one skin to another, coasting on nothing more than charm, ingenuity and the simple fact that people will usually accept what they see at face value. Dicaprio and Hanks are perfectly cast, with enough space for a nice supporting turn from Walken and a break-out performance by Amy Adams, as a naive young nurse who gets a little too invested in the image Abagnale projects. There is a great scene in which Abagnale and Handratty meet face-to-face for the first time, a brilliant con game in which Handratty realizes that he may be up against a wily perpetrator, but he's also chasing a misguided kid acting out the only way he knows how. Watching all of the extensive behind-the-scenes footage included, it's apparent how ideal a working environment any Spielberg picture has become. From actors new to the fold — like Dicaprio and Sheen — gushing about the process to his long-standing relationships with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and composer John Williams (who provides a great score reminiscent of Henry Mancini), Spielberg fashions a bubble where creativity is encouraged at every turn. Towards the end of the material, Spielberg tells the real-life Abagnale a story about walking onto a studio lot when he was a kid, posing as an executive to gain access, and only then does it become clear just how personal this story is to him.
(Paramount Pictures)

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