Saturday, May 5, 2012

Catch Me if You Can (2002)


The chase is on as an FBI agent tracks down a man cashing phony checks all over the world.  The main plot is creative but it’s the side stories throughout that really makes or breaks the movie depending on how you enjoy them.  I like the young Frank’s never quit desire he learns from his dad to do the best he can for his parents, particularly his father.  The bond they had was what put an emotion into this movie that later was picked up by the FBI agent.  I’ll elaborate on it as we go through the movie.

Can't dance out of your tax problems.
                It all starts in 1963 when life is good for the Abagnale family living in New York.  They’re wealthy, happy, dancing and Frank Abagnale (Christopher Walken) is winning awards at his club.  Frank Sr. is married to a French woman he thinks is the best thing since sliced bread as far as his words are concerned.  His looks at brief times tend to say otherwise.  He’s proud of the means he snagged his wife over in France when there was heavy competition for her.  Their son Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a somewhat mischievous young man of 16 years of age.  As far as the beginning of the movie is concerned this is the American dream being displayed.  He pretends, in his new school, to be the French substitute teacher which draws nothing but laughter from his father.  It’s here that you first experience Frank Jr. impersonating to be someone else, it’s very funny.

I run in and shoot once or twice?
                Times get tough for the Abagnale’s though as Frank Sr. is busted for tax evasion I believe, well he’s under investigation at the very least.  The wealth falls away like leaves in autumn as does the happiness and the dancing, too bad.  I really admire the father’s devotion to his son; he teaches him as many life lessons as he can through this difficult phase in life.  Frank Jr. grasps all the knowledge his father gives to him.  I liked to see the excitement in young Frank as he acquired his father’s experiences.   For me I truly loved to see the father open a checking account for his son so he could be “in their club”.  Chase bank denied Frank Sr. a loan to cover his business simply because he wasn’t a client and he was a risk.  He didn’t want his son to face harsh times for a life he chose that isn’t rewarding anymore.  It means something to me to see the father put aside his own troubles to better his offspring.  It’s one of my favorite Christopher Walken performances in a movie too.

If he were a turtle, he'd be shell-shocked.
                It gets worse as the mother wants a divorce.  It’s obvious the dwindling cash flow is what drives her into the desire to leave.  She is a materialistic person while leaving love as a secondary aspect to her life, it’s sad.  She also is seeing one of her husband’s friends on the side which Frank Jr. discovers.  Did I mention this mistress she sees has wealth?  She basically bribes her own son to keep quiet about it and you feel the pain of a broken home befalling you.  If you were ever part of one you know the inner conflict and burdens you face through the process, I would know.  I feel sorry for Frank Sr. as he is losing nearly everything at once.  He has heart and conviction with his family and it’s always difficult to watch a decent man go down.  He should have paid taxes and it bites him severely.  Frank Jr. is forced to choose between his parents in an emotionally touching scene.  His father, being the strong person, tries to make it sound as if it’s nothing major.  Conflicted, Frank Jr. runs away in pain and confusion.  The emotion in the movie’s beginnings is well performed.

Boys and their toys am I right?
                Frank Jr., now out on his own, tries to use phony checks everywhere but doesn’t succeed at first.  He learns what his father taught him about the Yankees and remembers they always win because everyone is staring at their pinstripe uniforms.  Whether this illusion is true or not is not the focal point itself.  He observes pilots, who are like common day athletes. They’re highly looked upon and it’s the uniform that catches the eye of one’s attention.  Through a series of scams he becomes a trainee, so to speak, type of pilot or even ‘dead head’.  This is where he begins to really get into his craft at making fake checks.  I love the sticker he gets off the airplane toys for his paychecks!  He wants to get all the money and the old lifestyle back for his family.  He begins this illegal operation with the most meaningful intentions you see.  The troubled attitude he displays of his parents separation is also noteworthy, it’s sad.  He wanted a normal American life but it ends up being anything but that.

You can't fool your old man.
                He meets with his dad for dinner showing off that he’s a pilot.  He offers him a brand new car in good spirit but his dad refuses.  What would his dad do if caught in that car?  How could it be explained?  Frank Jr. didn’t think it through that well he just wanted to make his dad happy knowing he wasn’t.  It’s a heartfelt scene I connected with as Frank Sr. was broken but holding it together during his conversation with Frank Jr.  They discuss how he met his mother and that he was the only man in the room who got her.  Christopher Walken impresses and dominates the scene.  Frank Sr. closes the dinner by telling his son in a sly way that he knows his son is no pilot but he doesn’t disapprove of it.  As Frank Jr. thought he had everyone fooled around him he is still learning lessons from his father.  I believe moments such as that are what drive Frank Jr. to be so detailed in his ruses later on.

You don't cross Tom Hanks gentlemen.
                Frank Jr. takes plane trips all over and our new pal Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), FBI agent, catches up to him at a hotel.  On the drive to the hotel Carl is driving with two agents joining him.  They insist he is far too serious at his job and want to hear a joke from him.  Carl tells a knock, knock joke as his buddies ask whose there, he replies, “Go fxck yourselves.”  Possibly the best scene in the movie is Carl meeting Frank Jr. in the hotel room.  As the very nervous pencil pusher Carl has Frank Jr. cornered in the room at gunpoint Frank Jr., quick with the wits, convinces Carl he is a secret service agent who just caught the perp.  Luckily for Frank Jr. he was in the bathroom when Carl barged in shouting FBI!  I believe that gave him enough time to think his way out of it.  He was also wearing a black suit to further imply he was indeed working for the government as well.

Frank Jr. is this close to soiling himself I'd say.
                Carl demands I.D. and Frank Jr. hands over his entire closed wallet to him.  At that moment you can see Frank Jr. fearful that his run of luck may be over.  All Carl needs to do is open the wallet!  Frank Jr. heads to the window to see a blind man he briefly knows from the hotel being assisted into a car.  It does rather look like he’s being arrested to the unsuspecting Carl.  The word luck spills from my lips every time I watch this scene as it’s very well done.  Frank Jr. manages to sneak out with his printing press, he claims is ‘evidence’, as Carl lets out a huge sigh of relief believing the case was closed.  He wants to return the wallet to Frank Jr. but he says he trusts him with it.  Alone in the room Carl is curious and opens the wallet to see a bunch of labels from various products, a habit of Frank Jr’s. is collecting labels.  Carl has been had as he looks out the window to see Frank Jr. running away.

Santa can't save you from me boy!
                At Christmas Carl speaks with Frank Jr. about the mishap at the hotel, over the phone.  Frank Jr. tries to apologize for embarrassing him and that he didn’t want to resort to it.  Frank Jr. is a bit down and levels with Carl even telling him exactly where he is.  You also learn here that Carl has a daughter who is four, but he never gets to see her much.  This is when you discover an aching man who has a failed marriage so he dives into his work to hide the pain.  Suddenly you feel sorry for Carl in a way because he seems like a good enough man.  I believe Frank Jr. connects with that then abruptly hangs up as Carl states he has no one else to call even on Christmas.  Frank Jr. begins to realize that living on the run has its disadvantages around the holidays.  Shortly after Carl finds out that Frank Jr. is but a teenager.  Carl is very diligent in his research and that impresses me.  It’s nothing unrealistic but rather just a hard working individual chasing the ultimate result of capture.

                The next portion of the movie I wasn’t terribly fond of.  Frank Jr. learns that he has become the “Skyway Man” in the newspapers.  He is becoming famous for flying free.  He decides to become a doctor and then a lawyer all the while he falls for Brenda (Amy Adams).  Obviously the young Frank wants something resembling a normal life.  As he pretends to be a doctor and lawyer he learns the lingo from watching the corresponding television shows which is silly but funny.  He wants to marry Brenda and quit his ways of check fraud.  Why not he has countless dollars packed into suitcases at this point.  He calls up Carl and asks him to stop chasing him, yeah right.  Carl denies him that request naturally and informs Frank Jr. that he will be caught.

                Frank Jr. meets with his father to invite him to his wedding.  Frank Sr. is complaining about the government saying he made a deal with them to accept a job as a postman to cover the tax situation but they still want more.  Frank Jr. desperately tries to coax his father into coming and to bring mom.  Frank Jr. still wants the old life back but his father knows it’s in the past now.  Frank Sr. is crushed, you see a man who has lost it all.  I can’t say enough for Walken’s continued performance in this movie, I admire it.  He informs his son he’s proud he has the government on the run for him but he can’t stop now.  Frank Jr. conflicted once more heads off not knowing what lies ahead.

                Carl catches up to Frank Jr. at his wedding engagement party.  Frank Jr. tells Brenda the truth about his life and begs her to come away with him in two days at Miami.  She isn’t a bright girl and is very troubled at the reality of the situation.  Who could blame her?  A random doctor wants to marry her while he’s changing careers to be a lawyer?   How odd is that?  He leaves out the window, of course, and escapes moments before Carl enters the room.  Why not give chase to him then?  He can’t be far.  It’s obvious he recently escaped out the window!  Why is this a “let him get away again” point?  Carl is a tedious serious man and suddenly giving up on this trail seems off.  The entire segments of the doctor and lawyer deal are iffy.  It stretches the previously believable scams to levels I didn’t enjoy as much.

The French are idiots Carl! Let's go to London!
                It’s a set up at Miami airport that forces Frank Jr. to think of a new exit strategy for leaving the country.  Brenda obviously spilled the beans about the alleged plan to meet at the airport.  I know Frank Jr. is young but he seems like a very clever person so how did he NOT see this one coming?  You knew Carl was in the house when you escaped so you knew he would be questioning the crap out of anyone he could get around.  Never mind this let’s say we push forward.  Let’s just jump ahead a bit as Frank Jr. escapes narrowly on a plane to Europe.  He uses random high school girls to surround him at Miami airport in the disguise of flight attendants.  It’s a somewhat funny gag but at this point it’s just reaching too far for me.  It took too long to set up the one scene it was building toward.  By now I want Carl to bust this kid!  Carl is told by his superiors he let him get away which stings him.  In a way it’s the truth, he did all he could be couldn’t catch a mere teenager.  He tracks him to France; the town Frank’s mother grew up in, and arrests him at long last.  The French government wants to kill Frank Jr. for stealing so much money from them and I’d agree with them.    
   
                Frank Jr. eventually gets completely out of control as he imagines that he is uncatchable and free to do as he pleases around the globe.  Frank Jr’s. game comes to an end as he’s thrown into a French prison for awhile.  Carl after years of persistence gets Frank Jr. back to the states.  It’s on the plane ride he learns that his father had died which tears him apart inside.  Your reckless adventures around the world made you lose sight of the people you began to do this for in the first place.  He ends up working for the FBI fraud check department, with Carl, for the remainder of his sentence.

                It’s a back and forth chase that gets a bit too unrealistic.  Now considering this movie is trying to portray a true story you expect it to not venture into such extreme situations so often.  The way Frank Jr. always escapes is monotonous.  When he finally does to Europe why not just steal “X” amount of dollars, buy a house and live out your life?  Or how about taking care of dad, isn’t that what you wanted all along?  Why keep going so long, the thrill of the chase?  For all the cleverness and ingenuity Frank Jr. had he succumbed to adventures backlash of being caught.  I’m surprised the French didn’t kill him when they had the chance.  He stole a lot of money.  The performances of Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken are what kept me watching.  I enjoyed the father-son testament they portrayed to young Frank as he had gone through life so precariously.  The side stories flopped a bit but the grand scheme of the check fraud is interesting enough to tie the parts I liked together.  The movie really suffers from just being too long.

                Rating: 8 of 10


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