Two Movies Duel Review: Catch Me If You Can vs. The Talented Mr. Ripley

Two Movies Duel Review

Catch Me If You Can vs. The Talented Mr. Ripley

1. Presentation of the opponents (a.k.a synopsis)

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!

Tom: 1 point
Frank: 2 points
3. Round two: likeability factor
Both our heroes are handsome, gifted and intelligent. Both are poor underdogs, they have to fight for a better life and both want to achieve something more than your ordinary Mr. Smith. What’s the difference between them?
Tom’s personality screams ‘pathology’ at every turn. Let’s face it, this guy is a born con man with a distended ego only matched by his ambitions – he wants to make a career and do it painlessly and very fast. He thinks he is entitled to it. Yes, he tries to be honest at first but unfortunately he’s chosen the wrong recipient – Dickie is not better than his guest: vain, self-centered, with low boredom threshold, thinking that the whole world should belong to him and has been created for his amuzement only. Such an attitude enhances Tom’s expectations to a realy insane degree, making him a fully-fledged deviant and a murderer, unable to trust anybody and completely lonely as a result. He proves he  also has a talent for ruining his life.
Frank is also a bit full of himself but a) he is a bit younger than Tom so more malleable b) he seems to be more intelligent. After a while Frank sees clearly that a metaphorical ‘diet’ consisting of sweets and cakes (so his unlawful spoils) is nothing healthy or nothing that will last. Deep down he yearns for a bit of normality – safety, love, family. He also never hurts anybody personally (at least not in the movie), quite the opposite – he cons big corporations and companies, the police, the banks but not innocent people. Finally he earns sympathy even from his pursuer and nemesis, Carl, the FBI agent.
Tom: 0.5 of a point
Frank: 2 points
4. Round three: the setting

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

Tom ends up killing again and again (not saying who, it would be a spoiler) and fighting his inner demons to no end. I admit it was sad but also so very real – let’s face it, when you cross certain limits you might not return to a land of psychological stability ever again.
Frank finds a real career, the safety and stabilization he sought. He marries and lives happily ever after. I liked that evening far less althoug it was mood-lifting and optimistic. Why? Well, don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly happy the real Frank ended better off than Tom but I bet it was only because he was just very very lucky. More often than not forgers and fraudsters ruin their life as efficiently as murderers.
Tom: 2 points
Frank: 1.5 points
Duel results:
Tom: 5.5 points. Not bad for a fictional psychopath 🙂
Frank: 6.5 points. Real life heroes rule and win!!!

How do you like my new movie review formula? I don’t promise to do it often but if you know some movies which, in your opinion, simply beg for being compared do let me know!
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6 Responses to Two Movies Duel Review: Catch Me If You Can vs. The Talented Mr. Ripley

  1. Blodeuedd says:

    I do like it 😀 Nice formula. If I only could think of something for you to see

  2. Thanks, and don't worry – it is not easy to find the right movies!

  3. heidenkind says:

    Okay, how about The Tourist and North by Northwest? 🙂 Or, if you want something more recent, Skyfall versus Argo.

  4. Both options are enticing. Skyfall and Argo – I've watched both and I liked neither so it sounds very promising! The Tourist – I want to watch it and most probably I will, North by Northwest…I must enquire whether I will be able to find it at all.

  5. red witch says:

    In the case of poor Tom, his first violence was not intended – it was a crime of passion – but once committed he could not return to a state of innocence ever. And he would face the death penalty if caught. So he had to keep up the fiction that all was well.In the case of Frank, he found a substitute father figure who guided him to an honest life. It shows that when one reaches out to troubled youth, you can change a life for the better for everyone.Can't think of any movies to compare but if I do, I will let you know.

  6. Yes, Tom's first violent act was not intended, maybe even provoked – still I have little sympathy for his greed and if he wasn't so greedy maybe, just maybe he would have been lost in peace. Frank is an example that you can straighten up your life if you really want to.Surely do let me know if you think of any good pairing!

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