Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can

In the movie Catch Me If You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a con man who has led quite an extraordinary life. This film is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. As a teenager he ran away from a broken home and successfully conned people while pretending to be a pilot, doctor, and even a prosecutor. He primarily cashed forged checks and stole millions of dollars in the 1960s and 70s.

Lest this be simply a cautionary tale, the real life story actually has a rather successful twist. Following his arrest, Mr. Abagnale began working with the FBI catching elite money forgers and has earned millions (legally) creating checks that cannot be forged. Most importantly to him is the fact that he has been happily married for nearly 3 decades and has three sons. While the film is not a strict biographical telling, one very central theme is one of belonging and the difficulties faced by children of broken homes. In the wonderful 2017 HBO documentary about director Steven Spielberg, he discusses at length how his own parents’ divorce has impacted his life and film work.

Of course, the seeds of deception are planted early on, and in this scene we see a young Mr. Anagnale deciding, seemingly on a whim, to impersonate a substitute teacher. Check it out here:

The look of pride from Christopher Walken (who plays his father) is obvious validation for the son. In reality, once young Frank ran away and began his life of crime, he never saw his father again. Despite having amazing experiences and gathering lots of money, he would fantasize about being at home with his parents, together again. Given Spielberg’s background, he intimates this in the film by depicting the need for relationship as Leonardo DiCaprio reaches out to the FBI agent who is in charge of his case:

Agent Hanratty, played by Tom Hanks, does not have much compassion for the young man as he makes light of the lack of relationship, but how often don’t the young people we serve seek validation and relationship from the worst possible places or by making the worst possible choices. In real life, the agent and the con turned out to parlay that relationship into an actual friendship. They worked together and remained close friends up until the agent’s passing in 2005.

We are beset by brokenness. As stated in the off-beat cult classic cartoon Final Space, “All of us are broken. It’s just a question of how much and how far we’re willing to go to fix it.” We are surrounded by broken, hurting people. Perhaps we can be the light that shines through the cracks in someone today.