Despite my better efforts, there are some huge gaps in my film-watching repertoire. Gaps which, since 90% of my friends are just as film-nerdy as I, I am constantly given sh*t for. Which I super deserve. So now, to shut all of them up, I’ve decided to get to work on catching up on these gaps.
This week, I take a look at the 2002 chase film “Catch Me If You Can” and the 1983 comedy “Risky Business”.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Not gonna lie, I had extremely high expectations for this movie. I love the time period, I love films about con men, I love the cast and I love the director. This movie seemed pretty much built especially for me, so I was scared that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I’ve been burned by films before, but I’m usually pretty good at guessing what I will and won’t like. And in this case, I definitely guessed correctly.
The film, based on the book of the same name by Frank Abagnale and Stan Redding, follows the real life exploits of Abagnale himself as he conned his way across the country. But let’s be honest, all you should need to hear to convince you to check this movie out is the following: Leonardo DiCaprio. Tom Hanks. Christopher Walken. Steven Spielberg. Hell, that could be my entire review right there. But, I guess I gotta go into a little more detail.
Since I made it such a point, let’s talk about the cast right up front. The film is really pretty much a two-man show between Hanks and DiCaprio, who are both spellbinding. DiCaprio sells his character so well throughout the film, you almost believe every lie he tells. His ability to pull off the complicated balance of charm and deceitfulness necessary for the role more than makes this film worth watching. Every time Abagnale changes to a new persona, DiCaprio switches accents, speech patterns and mannerisms on a dime. It’s damn impressive. Hanks fully commits to his role as FBI agent Carl Hanratty (based upon the real life agent Joe Shea), playing something other than the “nice guy Tom Hanks” role he plays so often. But because both these actors are so charismatic, it’s tough to know who to root for. You want both characters to succeed for their own separate reasons, so pitting them against each other creates an immensely enjoyable film. Their first face-to-face confrontation is probably the best scene in the film, because it shows both Hanks’s affability as an agent as well as the height of DiCaprio’s abilities. Walken and a young Amy Adams both also turn in great and memorable performances.
This film always feels two steps ahead of its audience, much like its lead character. There are so many surprising, applause-worthy moments as DiCaprio evades his pursuers. The movie makes Abagnale seem equal parts smart and lucky, which keeps the film from ever being unbelievable. It’s hard to portray someone really intelligent on film while making them relatable as well. Most of Abagnale’s relatability comes from the way he uses his smarts. In many scenes, (the one in which he masquerades as a substitute teacher specifically), Abagnale does the things most of us want to do. I’ve never wanted to just go out and lie to people as much as I wanted to after this movie.
The time period is very well used, from the opening referencing 60’s game show “To Tell the Truth” to the minimalist art inspired title sequence. Also, the running motif of 60’s “The Flash” comic books made me ridiculously happy. The moment DiCaprio introduces himself as Secret Service Agent Barry Allen, I had to pause the movie to applaud. In addition to my own fan-nerdery, I also have to love the use of a character who masks his true identity while always staying twenty steps ahead of his foes as a metaphor for Abagnale himself. The only real complaint I have about the film is its length. clocking in at two hours and twenty minutes, it’s a bit of a long sit. And I can’t lie, it does drag towards the end. i feel like this could have been a perfect film if it was just cut down a little bit, but as-is, it still earns a near-perfect
Four out of five stars.
There are three types of movies I review here: movies I am super excited to watch, movies I am nervous to watch, and movies I know literally nothing about. This film falls into the third category. Upon watching this movie, I knew three things about it. One: Tom Cruise is in it. Two: there is a scene in which Cruise dances and lip syncs in his underwear that has been parodied in every sitcom since the film’s release. Three: A friend of mine described it as “Dirty ‘Ferris Bueller'”. That was all I had to go on. So what did I think?
First, backstory. The film, written and directed by Paul Brickman and staring Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay, follows high school senior Joel Goodson (a bit on-the-nose there aintcha, movie?) as he struggles to take a more “what the f*ck” attitude to life. This leads to him getting involved with a call girl, her “manager” and a whole lot of other misadventures. And it’s, like, really gosh darn good.
Like I said, I didn’t have any idea what this movie was going to be like, but “dirty ‘Ferris Bueller'” is a damn good description. It keeps the consequence free atmosphere of “Bueller” but also delves into some darker themes, showing the possible effects of the behavior exhibited in the film. I was legitimately impressed at the direction, which had a darkly melancholic tone at points, which served to ground the movie to a firm base of reality. The soundtrack and narration also go along way to detach the audience, replicating the detachment Cruise himself feels at the beginning of the film. All this fuses into a fun romp with a definite dark side, which I really appreciate.
This film lives on the strength of its characters, so it’s a good thing those characters are so damn good. De Mornay is fantastic, playing every moment incredibly close to the vest. For most of the film, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what she is thinking or what the motivations behind her actions are. Cruise is immensely likable, and he needs to be. In a movie as unashamedly sleazy as this, Cruise’s flipping between wide-eyed innocence and reveling in the events around him really makes the movie work. One of the things I liked most about this film was that all the teenaged characters felt and talked like actual teenagers. Even if some of them were kind of assholes, hey, some teenagers ARE assholes. All the reactions of the main characters to the events around them felt natural and served to endear those characters to me further. All the side characters were instantly memorable and fit their roles well.
Despite going from set piece to set piece, this movie never feels disjointed. The stakes escalate naturally and the payoffs to the storyline feel well deserved. I also appreciated how the story ends well for Cruise on the surface, bit with darker implications lying beneath. This film is truly about saying “what the f*ck”. All the good things that can come from it, and all the bad aftereffects it can have as well. So give it a watch for certain.
FIVE out of five stars.
So that’s it for this week. “What the f*ck” am I gonna review next week? Well, I don’t actually know yet, so until next time, “Knock Knock. Who’s there? Go f*ck yourselves.”