The Talented Mr. Ripley: Tom Ripley is a handsome young underachiever without any formal education, living in a basement and working as a lavatory attendant. However he is also a ‘quick study’ – intelligent, bright, perceptive, musically talented. He can do very accurate impressions of other people, he can forge signatures and he is a consumate liar. One day he borrows a Princeton jacket to play piano at a private garden party. When a wealthy father of a recent Princeton grad chats Tom up, Tom pretends to know the son and is soon offered $1,000 to go to Italy to convince prodigal Dickie Greenleaf to return home and start earining his keep. In Italy, Tom simply attaches himself to Dickie and to Marge, Dickie’s cultured fiancée, with a tenacity of a boa constrictor. He pretends to love jazz and is soon harboring homoerotic hopes as he soaks in borrowed luxury of his lovely host. He also tells Dickie the truth about his real mission – it seems those two might become fast friends if not something more. Soon enough, though, Dickie becomes bored with Tom’s company and lets him know that he is not welcome anymore in his Italian house. Tom, who likes his new life far better than the old one, is not a person you can get rid of easily. Sensing that Dickie is about to cut him loose, he decides to take the matters into his own hands – he thinks that it’s better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody and with his many talents he decides to change his identity…and contiune the ‘dolce vita’. At his rich friend’s father expense.
Catch Me If You Can: Frank Abagnale lives with his parents in New Rochelle, New York. He is a bright, handsome teenager with a penchant for dramatics and a father who uses the boy as a prop in his many con schemes, giving invaluable life lessons how to chat up a woman and manipulate a banker. Small wonder one day Frank uses his talents pretending to be a substitute French teacher (his mom is French so he knows the language far better than his peers) in a new school. When his parents divorce anguished Frank runs away and starts a life full of windfall profits, occasional luxury, constant deceit and danger. He becomes an expert in forging checks and different confidence scams, tricking mainly banks and Pan Am airlines. Still, despite a string of casual lovers (all those lovely stewardesses and tellers!) the kid feels more and more alone and alienated. Not to mention the fact that a certain FBI agent called Carl Hanratty keeps following Frank doggedly hoping that one day he’ll finally catch him. The real ‘hide-and-seek’ tournament begins…who will be better?
2. Round one: reality check
Tom Ripley is a fictional character from a series of psychological novels penned by Patricia Highsmith. He lives roughly at the same time as Frank – perhaps a decade earlier. He is three-dimensional and well-rounded, at least in the movie.
Frank Abagnale is a real person with an unusual career – before his 19th birthday, he successfully conned millions of dollars worth of checks as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and Louisiana parish prosecutor. He escaped from police custody twice before he was 21 years old. He served fewer than five years in prison before starting to work for the federal government. He is currently a consultant and lecturer for the FBI academy and field offices. Facts are always stranger than fiction – nobody could have imagined such a hero!
The Talented Mr. Ripley is set mainly in Italy – in Rome, Milan and Venice but also in the country. I loved it – it was a visual feast!
Catch Me If You Can takes the viewer in a journey round America and Europe but we rarelly see more than the interiors: airports, banks, hotels and such. Nice but definitely less impressive.
Tom: 2 points
Frank: 1 point
5. Round four: the ending