Leonardo DiCaprio has starred in a plethora of notable films over the years. Though some of us prefer to remember him as the bratty kid from Critters 3, most will recall his star-making turns in movies like Titanic, Inception (Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece), and The Wolf of Wall Street. However, one of his best films rarely gets brought up in conversation these days. And that movie is going to drop on Netflix this Friday. What better time to talk about it and remind folks that it’s a secret gem?
Catch Me If You Can united Leonardo DiCaprio with arguably the most well-known American film director of all time, Steven Spielberg. The film tells the story of master forgery expert Frank Abagnale Jr., played with overwhelming charisma by DiCaprio. However, FBI agent Carl Hanratty (a gleefully grumpy Tom Hanks) is hot on Frank’s trail. But Frank actually finds the pursuit invigorating and the two develop a strange appreciation for each other over the course of their lives.
Based on a true story, Catch Me If You Can was part of a streak of films that began to establish Leonardo DiCaprio as a bonafide movie star. He had obviously become one of the hottest actors on the planet after the gargantuan success of Titanic, but the movies he starred in immediately after that – The Man in the Iron Mask, Celebrity and The Beach – failed to propel his popularity even higher. It wasn’t until he teamed with Martin Scorsese in Gangs of New York that he began to be recognized as a powerhouse actor.
And Catch Me If You Can released in the same year as Gangs of New York. This was crucial to showcasing the range Leonardo DiCaprio was capable of. In one film, he is a dark and violent man on a quest for revenge. And in the other, he was a happy-go-lucky charmster. It really was the one-two punch of these films that solidified the character actor nature of DiCaprio in the pop-culture consciousness. He was able to slip into any role and bring the same level of gravitas no matter what the tone of the performance was.
What makes Catch Me If You Can underrated is that it’s often dismissed as lighthearted fluff. While it is certainly an entertaining and enjoyable movie, Leonardo DiCaprio is not treating the material as a lowest common denominator role. Frank is a complex character and it is worth arguing that DiCaprio actually enhances what he was given on the page. The fact that luminary actor Tom Hanks is in the film and is playing second fiddle to DiCaprio should give you some indication of how good the young actor is in the film.
Catch Me If You Can is often viewed as a lesser outing from lauded director Steven Spielberg, and that is a debate worth having, but it is no question that it should be assessed as one of the best of Leonardo DiCaprio’s filmography. As the actor has gotten older, he seems to be less interested in these kinds of characters. It is a shame because he really does bring an amazing amount of heart and depth to the role of Frank, and now is a perfect time to revisit Catch Me If You Can to see just how excellent he is in this wonderful movie.