Making the Grades
Glamorizing illegal behavior happens far too frequently in movies, but every now and then a criminal mind comes along possessing an ingenuity that deserves recognition. Such is the case of the real Frank Abagnale - played in this film by Leonardo DiCaprio.
In the movie, Frank is an adolescent growing up with a father (Christopher Walken) who believes the outer image of a person makes up for any deficiencies within. Modeling this behavior to the extreme, Frank soon discovers his confident persona provides him the ability to check out of high school and pass himself off as an airline pilot, pediatrician, and lawyer - all before the age of 21.
Desiring an income to match these false pretences, Frank becomes very skilled at forging checks. Beginning by removing Pan American Airlines logos from toy planes, the precocious delinquent soon has a bank account to assist with entertainment expenses during his jet setting activities. However, his frequent bogus banking exploits also draw the attention of the FBI - specifically Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks).
With the agent on his heels, the teenager barely has time to say goodbye to the many girls attracted by his professional credentials, uniform, and money - leading to a few hasty sexual interludes (which are portrayed with more detail than necessary). Always staying just barely beyond the grasp of the law, Frank's determination is only matched by Carl's persistence.
With Spielberg at the helm, this 1960's period movie is executed precisely. Both Hank's and DeCaprio's characters fit like tailored suits, with the younger actor rising to the challenge of portraying an intelligent yet foolish and distraught young man in a way that solicits the audience's sympathy.
Yet when considering this film's family suitability, this same sympathy could become a problem. Young viewers may be inclined to interpret Abagnale's life of crime as being the perfect start of an interesting career - the former crook is now revered as an expert on check fraud and serves as an invaluable resource to the FBI. This reverse hero, the noted sexual content and some profanity leaves parents deciding if they should catch this one or let it go.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Catch Me If You Can.
Learn more about Frank Abagnale here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Abagnale.
In the film, the consequences for Abagnail’s crimes are only briefly seen. If you made a movie, how do you think you could effectively portray what living in prison for five years would be like? If you had committed the same crimes as Abagnail, what do you think your chances of having an exciting career would be? How are most people affected by past criminal history?