Staff Pick

Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can Marked the Return of Leonardo DiCaprio

By Ashley Morton


Leonardo DiCaprio is Hollywood royalty — no one is arguing that. His resume of work is nothing short of incredible and people were obsessing over his finally getting an Oscar for good reason. Even the best and brightest can have a slump though, and DiCaprio’s was arguably between the years of 1998 and 2001. This dim time featured misses like The Man In the Iron Mask, The Beach, Don’s Plum (it’s fine, I’ve never heard of it either), and Celebrity. While you might appreciate these films on some level, they are certainly not Titanic, Romeo + Juliet, or What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. DiCaprio had, for many of us, fallen off the map leading to movie infamy. Even 2002’s Gang of New York, between DiCaprio’s questionable accent, the dragging third act, and Cameron Diaz’s forgettable performance, received a mixed reception. We were still waiting.

Then came Catch Me if You Can, and those of us holding our breath to see if DiCaprio would make it out of the cliched “teen stardom” roles were given a real answer — Leo was back and here to stay.

Based on the true story of 19-year-old Frank Abagnale Jr. conning millions of dollars by posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, then a lawyer, this Steven Spielberg-directed film leaves other crime biopics in the dust. To begin with, the cast, from starring to supporting, is spectacular. DiCaprio disappears into his role. It requires an actor of great talent to portray a young kid confident enough to pull off a variety of scams — and innocently thrilled that it’s working. His best moments are when the con-artist gives way to the kid, and the vulnerability of young Frank comes through.

Tom Hanks co-stars as as the FBI agent chasing Abagnale across the globe. His performance is a balanced portrayal of a frustrated man in pursuit, who also harbors a soft spot for the kid he’s following. Christopher Walken, always a joy, plays Frank’s father, and Amy Adams, in her break-out role, gives a lovely, innocent offering as Frank’s braces-wearing love interest. This doesn’t even touch on the scores of other small but touching roles and moments achieved by Jennifer Garner, Martin Sheen, James Brolin, Ellen Pompeo, and Elizabeth Banks.

Despite its 2 hour and 21 minute runtime, the film is colorful and fast-paced and DiCaprio’s character is so appealing, it’s easy to understand why so many were taken in by him. Spielberg seamlessly moves between the humor of someone being conned to the reality of a kid who’s in over his head. And you’ll love watching it all unfold.