Saturday, March 7, 2015

Catch it if you can: "Catch Me if You Can" as a milestone

Movies are like people. The more you see them, the more you see in them. In 2003 when I saw Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me if You Can," I thought it was a diverting tragicomedy with deft performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Walken. Now (it's in heavy rotation on Cinemax) the '60s-era story increasingly looks like the source from which "Mad Men" flows. That is to say, it's a keen-eyed survey of the fault line separating the World War II generation and its spawn.

Catch it if you can: "Catch Me if You Can" as a milestone

Leonardo DiCaprio flanked by flight attendants in Spielberg´s "Catch Me if You Can."
Leonardo DiCaprio flanked by flight attendants in Spielberg's "Catch Me if You Can."

Movies are like people. Sometimes the more you see them, the more you see in them. In 2003 when I saw Steven Spielberg's Catch Me if You Can,"I thought it was a diverting tragicomedy with deft performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Walken. Now (it's in heavy rotation on Cinemax)  the '60s-era story increasingly resembles the source from which Mad Men flows. That is to say, it's a stylish and keen-eyed survey of the fault line separating the World War II generation and its spawn.

Spielberg's chronicle of teenage con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr. was billed as "the true story of a real fake." If it seems more emotionally resonant than his other films, perhaps that's because Frank Jr.'s saga struck personal chords with a filmmaker who came of age in the 1960s, idealized the cool of Sean Connery's James Bond, was devastated by his parents' divorce and pretended to be someone he was not. (Spielberg crashed the Universal Studios lot, commandeered an office and affected an expertise he did not possess.)

Spielberg invests this story about the young man caught between the keeping-up-with-the Joneses ethos of his father (Walken) and the work ethic of the FBI agent chasing him (Tom Hanks) with heartache, humor and longing. The false identities assumed by Di Caprio's Abagnale presage the false identity assumed by the con artist now known as Don Draper on Mad Men.

The filmmaker also launched a number of new faces --including Amy Adams, Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Garner (who broke out that year in in TV's Alias) -- to serve as foils to DiCaprio in what is so far his finest performance. The more I see Catch Me if You Can, the higher it rises on the list of my favorite Spielberg movies. For me, it's second only to E.T. Your favorite Spielberg films?

Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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