Movie Reviews

The Truth About Frank's Dad In Catch Me If You Can

Summary

  • Catch Me If You Can is a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase movie with emotionally powerful scenes between Frank and his father.
  • The movie takes liberties with the truth, portraying Frank’s father as more positive than he actually was in real life.
  • Frank’s relationship with his father is a fundamental element that drives him to engage in fraud schemes in an attempt to save his parents’ marriage.



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Catch Me If You Can follows teenage fraudster Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) leading an absolutely unbelievable life, but the fakest thing about the movie is Frank’s dad. Steven Spielberg’s globe-trotting movie begins with Frank running away from home following his parents’ divorce, and he quickly learns how to make money with schemes that his father, Frank Abagnale Sr. (Christopher Walken) taught him. But things get out of hand, as he successfully pretends to be both a doctor and a pilot, cashing millions of dollars worth of checks until he’s arrested by the FBI after years on the run.


The result is one of the best cat-and-mouse chase movies of all time, but as thrilling and exciting as it is as a whole, Catch Me If You Can‘s also features great scenes of Frank checking in with his father. These scenes are emotionally powerful, partly thanks to the performances of Walken and DiCaprio, and partly thanks to what led to their moments. Every time Frank meets with his father, Frank Sr.’s life is increasingly worse. Interestingly, while the movie is full of sensationalism, it’s these scenes with Frank’s dad that are actually the most exaggerated.

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Frank Never Saw His Father Again After He Ran Away


A lot of unbelievable moments happen in Catch Me If You Can, such as Frank passing the bar exam and walking into a hospital and simply getting a job as a doctor, but those are all true. That’s why it comes as such a surprise that one of the less spectacular elements of the movie isn’t. Frank meets with his father at different points in both of their lives, whether it’s when Frank is employed as a pilot or as a lawyer, but in reality, they never saw each other again after Frank ran away from home.

Even Frank running away isn’t entirely true. In Catch Me If You Can, he runs away when he’s given the choice to live with either his father or his mother following their divorce. In reality, Frank actually lived with his father.

Walken’s portrayal of the real-life person is different, too. Walken’s character often dances in the movie, making him out to be a much more positive version of the man. Frank Sr. was also a conman himself and sent Frank to boarding school. Ultimately, all of those reunions never happened, and he wasn’t as charming as he’s portrayed, making the most realistic moments in the movie the most fabricated.


Why Frank’s Father Had A Bigger Role In The Movie

Though Frank Sr.’s role isn’t a sensational element of Catch Me If You Can, it is a fundamental one. Frank meeting with his father periodically throughout the movie is what encourages him to do what he does. Frank thinks that money can somehow save his parent’s marriage, even when they’ve been divorced for years.

This idea is what gives him purpose, but that ironically blinds him to the fact that both of their lives are getting much worse. Steven Spielberg is known for his sentimentality, and even though the scenes between Frank and his dad bend the truth, it’s what makes Catch Me If You Can so engaging and ultimately elevates the story.


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Frank Abadnale Sr. Isn’t The Only Change Catch Me If You Can Makes

It’s not uncommon for Hollywood scripts to embellish biographical tales to make a more engaging story.

Frank’s relationship with his father and his father’s life as a con man aren’t the only things different in Catch Me If You Can. It’s not uncommon for Hollywood scripts to embellish biographical tales to make a more engaging story.


Surprisingly, the movie is mostly faithful to Frank’s real-life romantic entanglements. He did have affairs with flight attendants that he met in his travels, for example. He also fell in love with a woman named Brenda and was ready to marry her. Like in the movie, he met her while pretending to be a doctor. Unlike the movie, being a doctor genuinely scared him and he didn’t want to put a patient in danger. He wanted to maintain his relationship with Brenda while moving on from his con as a doctor.

Frank Abagnale Jr.’s story was originally pitched for film in 1981 with Dustin Hoffman playing the lead.

Unlike the movie, which made his confession something that happened while he escaped to keep the audience on the edge of their seat, Abegnale actually confessed to Brenda because he wanted to come clean and build a life together. Likewise, it wasn’t initially a detective that noticed Abegnale’s work, but a flight attendant who had a relationship with him who decided to turn him in.


While Catch Me If You Can does depict some of Abegnale’s more sensational cons, like working as a doctor and a pilot, it does leave one out, perhaps because it’s not as exciting. While on the run from authorities, Abegnale claims that he worked as a sociology professor at Brigham Young University. The university has no record of his known aliases having been employed there, and this particular con doesn’t feature in the movie.

It makes sense that Catch Me If You Can would make changes to the story that worked to capture the attention of the audience even more than the true story.

catch me if you can film poster 1

Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 biographical crime film directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s based on the true story of real-life con artist Frank Abagnale Jr., who successfully impersonated an airline pilot, doctor, and lawyer. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the lead role and Tom Hanks co-stars as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty.

Release Date
December 25, 2002

Writers
Frank Abagnale Jr. , Stan Redding , Jeff Nathanson

Runtime
141 Minutes

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