Catch Me If You Can – Ingenious deception (2002)

Spielberg’s supremely amusing tale of self-invention in the land of opportunity tells the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a teenager from Rochelle, New York. Spielberg grasped that unique history and turned it into a superbly charming pursuit story precisely set in the sights and sounds of Abagnale’s 1960’s era. The film’s approach is cheerful and fun but maintains firm attention towards the dark side of characters pain and suffering.

Frank Abagnale Jr. was only 16 when he became one of the 1960’s most legendary con artists. The film opens with his home life; everything seems perfect for the teenager, whose parents are seemingly madly in love. But everything changes when Frank Sr. is investigated by the IRS and his dear mother files for divorce only to wed one of her husband’s closest friends. In hope of avoiding the confusion Frank Jr. runs away and begins a three year crime spree in which he successfully impersonates an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and several other professions, and tricks various establishments out of $2.5 million before he is caught and condemned to serve 12 years in prison.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the young Abagnale with an effortless charm, and we never fail to forget that his character is still a teenager distressed for approval from his father. Tom Hanks is also fantastic as FBI agent Carl Hanratty. The guy is passionate, ambitious and strongly devoted to his profession. Christopher Walken is great as Frank’s father. You really believe the genuine bond between the two characters. Martin Sheen appears as the impending father-in-law for Frank and his reactions to Frank’s giant stories are priceless. Jennifer Garner draws one of the biggest laughs in the movie when she tries to fraud the con man.

Steven Spielberg is a leading storyteller who has a delightful sense of visual design. Though very visually appealing and entertaining, Catch Me If You Can establishes a cheap grace because the soft ending to the movie seems to excuse Frank’s adolescent behavior. The movie, therefore, values love, compassion and sympathy above repentance and responsibility.

American Beauty – … Look Closer (1999)

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American Beauty is a creative exploration of insecurities, betrayals, insignificance and the mid-life crisis in suburban America. The marvellous script is perfectly transferred to screen by director Sam Mendes and his first-rate cast at the height of their form. American Beauty tragically reveals the truth about American society with this dark comedy about love, hate, passion and destruction.

American Beauty revolves around a dysfunctional family in a beautiful neighbourhood with no hope, love, appreciation or respect. Lester Burnham and his over-ambitious realtor wife Carolyn who was formerly joyful and smitten but now they detest spending time together and endure their lives for the sake of their daughter. Lester’s daughter Jane is your ordinary depressed teenager, battling acceptance and filled to the brim with sorrow. Their life continues mechanically, day by day, until the arrival of a strange family next door.

Kevin Spacey, in a sensational performance, nails every comic and emotional tone in the role of Lester Burnham, an average suburban man whose life is slowly falling apart. Spacey flawlessly charts his transformation from a crumpled loser to a tremendously self-confident slacker. Annette Bening throws all of her acting energy into immaculately profound Carolyn, making her sharp and superficial enough to believe Lester would grow to find her repulsive. Thora Birch plays the troubled adolescent without resorting to exaggerated theatrics, while Mena Suvari reflects her best friend as an oddly fragile, wannabe-model bitch. Wes Bentley is ideal as mysterious, camcorder adoring Ricky, skipping between unbalanced weirdo and artistically inspired genius.

The performances are outstanding, the direction is strident, the cinematography is striking and the themes still ring as loud as before. It’s a spectacular and energetic black comedy that astonishingly finds the humanity in ugly, abhorrent characters and reinforces it, meanwhile extracting our sympathy. American Beauty suggests that even below the seemingly pristine surface there are often hollow echoes of dullness, denial and despair. But there’s beauty in even in the wretched efficiency of our lives, and American Beauty makes us grateful for it.