Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik
1. The moral structure of the home will be the foundation upon which a child lives his or her life. Consider the moral messages many children receive from their parents today. What will the future society look like based on today’s parents?
2. If Frank Jr. was attempting to provide the resources for his parent to reunite and recreate his home, would you excuse his behavior or still hold him accountable? Why?
3. The nature of fraud is to tell a person what they want to hear. How did Frank Jr. do that to the people in his life and why is this a damaging behavior? Have you ever defrauded a person for some personal gain? What happened to the relationship?
4. In what way was Hanratty as disturbed a person as Frank Jr.? What does both a life of crime and a life of crime-fighting do to the soul of a person?
—Denny and Hal, Cinemainfocus.com
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Garner, Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken | Directed by: Steven Spielberg | Produced by: Steven Spielberg, Walter F. Parkes | Written by: Jeff Nathanson | Distributor: Dreamworks
I go to movies to be entertained. I went to see “Catch Me If You Can” because it received high review ratings, and, based on a true story, promised a content that would surely be interesting. It was indeed an intriguing film, and the two plus hours slipped by quickly. That the story is well-told cannot be denied. There is a good screenplay that clips along at a good pace, good acting, good editing that presents the rapid action clearly. But what does it all mean spiritually?
Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the son of Frank Abagnale, Sr. (Christopher Walken), and the apple does not fall far from the tree. The father is in trouble with the IRS and doesn’t express any remorse for his wrongdoing. In fact, he wants to sue the government for harassing him. Somehow Frank Junior catches this felony bug and engages, at the unbelievably young age of 16, in a life of shocking, colorful, flagrant fraud. The psychological stimulus seems to be his extreme despair at the divorce of his parents, and not just a desire to have money and climb out of the poverty that his father’s problems have created.
No only does Frank Jr. forge checks, but he embarks on a series of professions for which he has not a speck of education or training. He gets through this con life by sheer gall and creative intelligence. And he does all this successfully, at least for awhile. There is a delay between the execution of his crimes (impersonating an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer) and government authorities catching onto these crimes. In hot pursuit of him, once his spree of bank forgeries and other fraud is discovered, is FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks).
The movie takes us through hoops, as Frank performs his tricks and Carl tries to find him. He is, of course, eventually caught. The film is based on the story as told by the real Frank Abagnale. But does he have any remorse for the harm his fraud has caused? This issue is not at all clear in the movie. The film is entertaining, sometimes sad, but ultimately leaves a big moral question mark. The unquestioned answers are underlined by the fact, as stated at the end of the film, that Frank has been living a normal life for decades, with a wife and children, and is paid millions of dollars by institutions for helping them solve other bank fraud cases.
The morally unclear ending left me somewhat dissatisfied. The real Frank is now touring the country telling stories of his criminal escapades, and receiving celebrity status, thanks to this movie. The issue of justice is somehow hanging in mid-air for me. My Christian perspective on the moral of the story is frustrated and unresolved. Could this be an instance of God’s overriding mercy that restores Frank’s life to him and the movie simply failed to present all the necessary spiritual ingredients for one to draw this conclusion? I really don’t know. However, as entertainment, the movie succeeds grandly.
Editor’s Note: For an interesting read (and to contrast the exaggerations brought forth in this film), please see Frank Abagnale’s personal site at http://abagnale.com/comments.htm
I haven’t seen the film, but I’ve read the book, and heard a speech. The book shows that Frank began stealing to support his sex habit. What neither the book nor the film tell, is that he repaid all whom he stole from. “Today, no one is out a penney.” Get the audio of the speech at Focus on the Family. He does not at any time express any religious faith.