“I’m sorry I put you through all this.”
Catch Me If You Can is essentially what you get if you marketed Wolf of Wall Street to a PG-13 audience, following a likeable antihero, conveniently played by Leonardo DiCaprio, amidst his crime and sex fuelled antics. In my honest opinion, Spielberg’s heartwarming approach to storytelling sometimes do get in the way of a good film, with his family-friendly take on film affecting the way the story impacts a mature audience, sacrificing something poignant for the sake of a “feel-good” moment, which is why I appreciate his films that stray away from this approach, such as Schindler’s List.
However, Catch Me If You Can is a film whose concept does not call for the “Spielberg treatment”, however, instead of suffering from it, it actually benefitted from it. The film is an in-depth character study of a hyper-intelligent youth using his charisma for personal gain, always a step ahead from a detective on his trail. What’s interesting is the antihero aspect, though there is a clear protagonist and antagonist in the story, neither character is good or bad, they’re all complex with their own flaws and strengths, and despite them being on opposite sides of the law, their chemistry plays off very well, which brilliantly complements the theme of paternal love, something well explored in the course of the film.
DiCaprio’s character of Frank has been one lacking any form of love whatsoever, searching for what he had lost, deep down, after his decision to leave his family behind, utilising the skills he picked up from his charismatic father to con his way into a better life. Amidst his exploits across the country, what he’s innately searching for is a companion that he could trust, a companion that he could spend his time with, and he found it in the unlikely place of Carl, whom he sees as a father figure, after a subtle falling out with his own father. Carl on the other hand, is a no-nonsense detective, surrounded by incompetency, he uses Frank’s motivation against him in order to catch him, even using it to provoke him at some points in the film. However, at the end of the day, Carl as well, sees Frank as the child to his parent. He feels a level of responsibility for him. Hence, the title, “Catch Me If You Can”, this is not some mere comment, because a part of Frank wants to be caught, he wants to settle down, to reclaim the life he lost, and who’s to say Carl isn’t feeling the same way too?
Overall, a great film to add to the repertoire of an already great director, endlessly entertaining despite the runtime, and even if you can’t appreciate the film for its complex characters and themes, one can definitely appreciate the film at face value, marvelling in Frank’s antics, as how we marvelled in Jordan’s antics in the Wolf of Wall Street.
By: Zach Wee