Analysis of Catch me if you can

Summary The movie follows the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., a young man who successfully impersonates various professions before being caught. He is initially visited by FBI agent Joe Shaye in a prison cell and pleads for help as his health deteriorates. Despite Joe's initial refusal, he eventually becomes concerned when Frank's health worsens. However, Frank escapes the infirmary but is held at gunpoint and expresses a desire to go home. The movie also explores Frank's relationships with his family, his desire to become an airline pilot, and his encounters with Joe during his investigation. Eventually, Frank is apprehended and sentenced to prison, but he later agrees to join the FBI's fraud and counterfeiting unit. The film ends with Frank starting his new job at the FBI building in Dallas.


Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The plot/story of the screenplay is engaging and well-developed, with compelling character arcs and intriguing twists. The character of Frank Abagnale Jr. is particularly well-written, with a clear and compelling arc of redemption and growth. His transformation from a troubled young man to a white-collar crime consultant is believable and emotionally satisfying. Similarly, the character of Joe Shaye adds depth and intrigue to the story, with his evolving relationship with Frank and his own personal struggles. The screenplay effectively explores themes of family, identity, and redemption, and keeps the audience engaged throughout. However, there are a few areas that could be improved. The resolution of Frank Jr.'s family dynamics and his relationship with his son feels somewhat rushed and underdeveloped. Additionally, some of the plot twists involving Frank's claims to be Secret Service could be better integrated into the story and given more weight. Overall, these are minor critiques in an otherwise well-crafted screenplay.
Suggestions: 1. To improve the character arc of Frank Abagnale Jr., delve more deeply into his emotional state and the underlying causes of his behavior. Explore his trauma and how it affects his relationships with others, as well as his inner conflicts and doubts. 2. Flesh out the resolution of Frank Jr.'s family drama, with more emphasis on the long-term consequences and effects on his character. 3. Incorporate more backstory about Frank Jr.'s childhood and family life, in order to give the audience a greater understanding of the challenges he has faced. 4. Include more scenes that showcase Frank Jr.'s emotional struggles and inner conflicts, in order to make his transformation feel more earned. 5. Explore Joe Shaye's personal struggles and how they affect his job. Include more scenes where Joe interacts with his daughter and show how his work impacts his personal life. 6. Show more instances where Joe's empathy towards Frank is shown, and the audience can see his gradual shift from skeptic to a believer. 7. Strengthen the ending by showing the audience how Frank's life has changed, thanks to Joe's help.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Frank Abagnale Jr.

Frank Abagnale Jr. is a charismatic and resourceful young man with a talent for deception. He is charming and confident, with a quick wit and impeccable manners. Growing up in a broken family, Frank Jr. learned to rely on his own instincts and wits to survive. He is driven by a need for belonging and acceptance, which he tries to achieve through his numerous impersonations. Despite his fraudulent activities, Frank Jr. is not motivated by greed or malice, but by a desire for adventure and the excitement of constantly reinventing himself.



Joe Shaye

Joe Shaye is a dedicated, curious, and determined FBI agent with a cautious and suspicious nature. He is initially skeptical of Frank's claims but becomes intrigued by his story and eventually helps him turn his life around. Joe is witty, focused, resourceful, and has a strong sense of justice. He shows empathy and concern for Frank's well-being and is willing to go to great lengths to catch him and protect him.



Frank Jr.

Frank Jr. is a complex character with a troubled past and a hopeful outlook on life. He is a determined and optimistic young man who is searching for his place in the world. Despite having experienced hardship in his life, he still has faith in the future and strives to make the most of each day. At times, Frank Jr. can be desperate and pleading for help when his health deteriorates in a prison cell, but he never loses sight of his goals and remains driven to achieve his dreams.



Frank

Frank is a complex and resilient character who demonstrates resourcefulness, determination, and adaptability throughout the movie. He is motivated by his dreams and ambitions, but also driven by his desire to find love, redemption, and to overcome the obstacles in his life. Frank is a skilled counterfeiter, a resourceful individual, a passionate printer, and a determined pilot, among other things. He is portrayed as a charming and enigmatic character who keeps the audience guessing about his true identity.



Frank Sr.

Frank Sr. is a resilient, ambitious, and fiercely loyal man who will do anything to protect his son. He is protective, brave, and excited about reclaiming his lost possessions.



Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Frank Abagnale Jr. Frank Jr.'s character arc spans from his early attempts at impersonation as a teenager to his eventual redemption and rehabilitation as a white-collar crime consultant. Throughout the movie, Frank Jr. goes through various stages of emotional and psychological development, from being a naive and impulsive bragger to a mature and empathetic individual. His initial motivation stems from a longing for his broken family to be reunited, and his impersonations serve as a way to fill the void left by his absent parents. However, as his activities catch up with him and he becomes a fugitive, Frank Jr. is forced to confront the consequences of his actions and the harm he has caused to others. Through his relationship with FBI agent Carl Hanratty, Frank Jr. begins to learn the value of honesty, loyalty, and trust. He also discovers his own talents as a forgery expert and uses them for legal purposes. By the end of the movie, Frank Jr. has come to terms with his past mistakes and resolved to live a legitimate life, reconciling with his father and building a relationship with his own son. Overall, the character of Frank Abagnale Jr. is well-developed and nuanced, with a clear and compelling arc. However, some aspects of his personality could have been explored in greater depth, such as his underlying feelings of abandonment and loneliness. Additionally, the resolution of his family dynamics and his relationship with his son feels somewhat rushed and underdeveloped, especially given their importance in his character journey.
To improve the character arc of Frank Abagnale Jr., it would be beneficial to delve more deeply into his emotional state and the underlying causes of his behavior. This could include exploring his trauma and how it affects his relationships with others, as well as his inner conflicts and doubts. Additionally, the resolution of his family drama could be more fully fleshed out, with more emphasis on the long-term consequences and effects on his character. Finally, the ending could be more emotionally satisfying by allowing for a greater sense of closure and catharsis.
Joe Shaye Joe's character arc in the screenplay starts with him being torn between his duty and concern for Frank. He starts off as an unsympathetic FBI agent who eventually becomes concerned about Frank's well-being and decides to help him. Joe's character goes through a transformation as he becomes more determined to catch Frank, but at the same time, he develops a bond with him and starts to see him as more than just a criminal. In the end, Joe helps Frank turn his life around and offers him a job with the FBI. Overall, Joe's character arc is well-developed and interesting. However, there are some areas where the arc could be improved. For instance, there could be more exploration of Joe's personal life and struggles, especially regarding his strained relationship with his daughter. Additionally, there could be more instances where Joe's empathy towards Frank is shown, and the audience could see his gradual shift from skeptic to a believer.
To improve the character arc, more focus could be placed on Joe's personal struggles and how they affect his job. There could be more scenes where Joe interacts with his daughter, and the audience could see how his work affects his personal life. Additionally, there could be more scenes where Joe shows his empathy towards Frank, and the audience can see his gradual shift from skeptic to a believer. Finally, the ending could be strengthened by showing the audience how Frank's life has changed, thanks to Joe's help.
Frank Jr. Frank Jr.'s character arc involves a transformation from a confused and directionless young man to a strong and purposeful individual who has found his place in the world. At the beginning of the movie, he is caught between his parents' divorce and unsure of his future. However, as he is forced to navigate the challenges of prison, he begins to discover his passions and strengths. He forms meaningful relationships with other inmates and discovers a talent for writing. By the end of the movie, Frank Jr. has found a sense of purpose and direction, and is determined to use his talents to make a positive impact on the world. The character arc for Frank Jr. is well-developed, but it could benefit from more emotional depth and complexity. The transformation from a confused and lost young man to a strong and purposeful individual is a compelling arc, but it would be even more impactful if we could see the character struggle and overcome more obstacles along the way. Additionally, it would be helpful to have more insight into Frank Jr.'s thoughts and feelings throughout the movie, in order to better understand his motivations and desires.
One suggestion to improve the character arc would be to incorporate more backstory about Frank Jr.'s childhood and family life, in order to give the audience a greater understanding of the challenges he has faced. Additionally, it would be helpful to include more scenes that showcase his emotional struggles and inner conflicts, in order to make his transformation feel more earned. Finally, it could be beneficial to include more scenes where Frank Jr. interacts with other characters who challenge his beliefs and push him to grow as a person.
Frank Frank's character arc is one of growth and redemption. He moves from a life of deception and crime to a position as an FBI agent, using his skills in counterfeiting to help bring down other criminals. Along the way, he faces personal losses and struggles with his emotions, but ultimately finds a chance for redemption and a way to make amends for his past actions. Frank's transformation is marked by a series of setbacks and challenges, but his resilience and determination enable him to overcome them and become a better person. While Frank's arc is compelling and well-developed, there could be more clarity and consistency in his character throughout the movie. At times, his motivations and actions seem to shift without explanation or context, making it difficult for the audience to fully engage with his transformation. Additionally, some of the plot twists and turns, particularly those involving his claim to be Secret Service, could be better integrated into the arc and given more weight in the overall narrative.
To improve Frank's character arc, there could be more emphasis on his internal struggle and the emotional toll of his actions. This could be achieved through more consistent and nuanced portrayal of his relationships and interactions with other characters, particularly those he is trying to deceive. Additionally, the plot twists involving his identity could be integrated more seamlessly into the narrative and given greater weight and significance throughout the movie. Overall, Frank's arc is strong, but could benefit from more clarity and consistency in his character development.
Frank Sr. Frank Sr.'s character arc throughout the screenplay starts off with him being protective of his son and willing to stand up for him. As the story progresses, he becomes more resilient and ambitious, refusing to let the government bring him down. He is excited about the prospect of starting over and reclaiming his lost possessions. However, his defiance toward the government ultimately leads to his arrest. In jail, he learns the reality of his situation and becomes more introspective. He realizes the sacrifices he made for his son and regrets the mistakes he made that led him to his current situation. He eventually comes to terms with his mistakes and accepts responsibility for them, leading to his release from prison and a renewed relationship with his son. The character arc for Frank Sr. is well-written and depicts a realistic and compelling transformation. However, it could benefit from more substantial development in the middle of the story. Frank Sr.'s arrest feels sudden and lacking in buildup, which makes it hard for the audience to connect with his character. Additionally, there could be more exploration of his introspection in jail to make his transformation more impactful.
To improve the character arc, the screenplay could add more scenes that show Frank Sr.'s increasing defiance toward the government and make this transformation more gradual. His arrest could be foreshadowed more heavily, and his introspection in jail could be given more attention to make the audience more invested in his transformation. Overall, the character arc is strong, but with more development in the second act, it could be even more impactful.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Identity and deceptionThe screenplay explores the theme of identity and deception through Frank Abagnale Jr.'s ability to successfully impersonate different roles, such as an airline pilot, pediatrician, Assistant Attorney General, and Professor of American History. This theme is also seen in his interactions with FBI agent Joe Shaye, who is initially suspicious of Frank's claims but eventually believes him.The theme of identity and deception is central to the screenplay as it drives the plot and character development. It showcases Frank's talent for assuming different personas and highlights the challenges and consequences he faces as a result of his actions.
Desperation and vulnerabilityThe screenplay portrays Frank Abagnale Jr.'s desperation and vulnerability as he finds himself in a dim prison cell, pleading for help as his health deteriorates. This theme is further emphasized by his deteriorating health and the concern expressed by FBI agent Joe Shaye.The theme of desperation and vulnerability adds emotional depth to the screenplay, allowing the audience to empathize with Frank's situation and feel the weight of his choices. It highlights the consequences of his actions and the toll it takes on his physical and mental well-being.
Justice and consequencesThe screenplay explores the theme of justice and consequences through Frank Abagnale Jr.'s interactions with FBI agent Joe Shaye, who informs him that he will be extradited and serve a long prison sentence. This theme is also seen in Frank's deteriorating health and the potential consequences of his actions.The theme of justice and consequences serves as a moral compass in the screenplay, highlighting the importance of accountability for one's actions. It raises questions about the nature of justice and the extent to which individuals should be held responsible for their choices.
Family and loyaltyThe screenplay explores the theme of family and loyalty through Frank Abagnale Jr.'s relationship with his parents. This theme is seen in his parents defending him when he impersonates a substitute teacher and their support in the face of his impending suspension. It is also seen in Frank's reunion with his mother at a church and their conversation about his father's suicide.The theme of family and loyalty adds depth to the screenplay, showcasing the complexities of familial relationships and the enduring bonds that shape our identities. It explores the importance of support and unconditional love, as well as the challenges that arise when faced with difficult choices and betrayals.
Ambition and pursuit of dreamsThe screenplay explores the theme of ambition and the pursuit of dreams through Frank Abagnale Jr.'s desire to become an airline pilot. This theme is seen in his determination to achieve his goal, despite facing obstacles and setbacks.The theme of ambition and the pursuit of dreams adds a sense of motivation and inspiration to the screenplay. It highlights the power of perseverance and the importance of having goals to strive towards, even in the face of adversity. It showcases Frank's relentless pursuit of his dreams and the lengths he is willing to go to achieve them.



Screenwriting Resources on Themes

Articles

Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goals as they evolved throughout the script are to find a sense of recognition, validation, acceptance, and love, to protect and save vulnerable individuals, to honor family traditions and values, to maintain his reputation and livelihood, to adapt and find his place in new environments, to find stability, security, and a sense of belonging, to gain approval from his father, to prove himself and his abilities, to pursue a career that gives him purpose and fulfillment, and to maintain control, competency, and professionalism.
External Goals The protagonist's external goals as they evolved throughout the script are to survive, escape, clean a wine stain, obtain appropriate attire, secure a loan, navigate new environments, avoid trouble, find stability, support family, apprehend suspects, catch criminals, navigate personal and professional relationships, find a printer, gain acceptance and validation, clear family's name, obtain money, maintain composure, express love and commitment, impress and gain acceptance, reveal the truth, assume a new identity, maintain law and order, gather information, solve cases, avoid trouble, achieve success, find a way to survive, lead a team, convince a judge, reconnect with family, escape capture, gather evidence, locate suspects, acquire money, and protect financial institutions.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict revolves around themes of redemption, morality, identity, deception, law and order, and the pursuit of personal fulfillment. The protagonist grapples with questions of whether he deserves a chance at redemption, the ethical boundaries of his actions, the true nature of his identity, the consequences of deception, the tension between personal fulfillment and societal expectations, and the impact of his choices on law and order.


Character Development Contribution: The goals and conflict contribute to the character's development by challenging and pushing the protagonist to confront his deepest desires, fears, and flaws. Through his journey, the protagonist learns important lessons about honesty, integrity, love, acceptance, and the consequences of his actions. His experiences and growth shape him into a multifaceted and complex character who evolves and matures throughout the screenplay.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The goals and conflict influence the narrative structure by creating a series of obstacles, challenges, and turning points that drive the plot forward and shape the protagonist's journey. Each goal and conflict contributes to the rising action, climax, and resolution of the screenplay, creating tension, suspense, and a sense of progression. They also provide opportunities for character development, plot twists, and thematic exploration.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The goals and conflict deepen the thematic exploration of the screenplay by examining themes of identity, redemption, morality, deception, family, love, acceptance, and personal fulfillment. They raise philosophical questions about the nature of one's self, the choices we make, the consequences of our actions, and the interplay between personal desires and societal expectations. The protagonist's pursuit of his goals and the conflicts he faces provide a rich backdrop for exploring these themes and exploring the complexities of human nature.


Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict

Articles

Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?