Friday Nite Movie

by Yule Heibel on May 24, 2003

It’s Friday, no big blog today. I made pizza from scratch and then settled down to a rented DVD, Catch Me If You Can, which could be interpreted as every parent-of-an-exceptionally-gifted-kid’s nightmare, except that it has a happy end. Frank Abagnale, an obviously highly able individual, typically has the emotional resonances proper to people of exceptional abilities, and when his parents announce their divorce, he just loses it and does a bunk. He is 16 and in high school, but he drops out of normal life with a vengeance. He runs away to New York City where he starts writing bad cheques to get by. The difference between him and the average con, however, is one of magnitude. Seeing that petty cheque forgery isn’t going to earn his keep, he cons his way into PanAm, pretending to be an airline pilot. After flying around the world for about a couple of years, he goes to Atlanta where he pretends to be a doctor, taking over the emergency room at a local hospital. Finally he goes to Louisiana where, after studying for two weeks, he passes the bar exam and becomes a lawyer. By now he’s 18. After that he also works as a college professor, which he says was the easiest con. Throughout the entire period, he continues to write bad cheques. By the time he is apprehended in France, he has cashed over US$2m worth of bogus cheques and has flown gratis around the world several times over. He goes to jail in 3 countries (France, Sweden, the US), but after several years of US jail time, the FBI asks him to come to work for them: they need his expertise. He does this for several decades, but also consults and runs his own business, helping financial institutions make cheques forgery-proof, and into the bargain amasses a veritable fortune — about ten times what he wrote in bad cheques (you do the arithmetic). No wonder Steven Spielberg wanted to make a movie about him.

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