American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The trailer for "Catch Me If You Can" is so obvious it could have written itself. It informs us that Frank Abagnale Jr. practiced medicine without attending medical school, practiced law without a law degree and passed as a pilot without attending flight school--all for the excellent reason that he did all of these things before he was 19, and had not even graduated from high school.
That this is a true story probably goes without saying, since it is too preposterous to have been invented by a screenwriter. Abagnale also passed millions of dollars in bogus checks, dazzled women with his wealth and accomplishments, and was, a lot of the time, basically a sad and lonely teenager. At the time the only honest relationships in his life were with his father and with the FBI agent who was chasing him.
In Steven Spielberg's new film, Abagnale is played by Leonardo DiCaprio as a young man who succeeds at his incredible impersonations by the simple device of never seeming to try very hard. While an airline employee might be suspicious of a very young-looking man who insists he is a pilot, what could be more disarming than a man offered a trip in the jump seat who confesses, "It's been awhile. Which one is the jump seat?" DiCaprio, who in recent films such as "The Beach" and "Gangs of New York" has played dark and troubled characters, is breezy and charming here, playing a boy who discovers what he is good at, and does it. There is a kind of genius flowing in the scene where he turns up for classes at a new school, walks into the classroom to discover that a substitute teacher is expected and, without missing a beat, writes his name on the blackboard, and tells the students to shut up and sit down and tell him what chapter they're on.
It is probably true that most people will take you at face value until they have reason to do otherwise. I had a friend who had risen to a high level in her organization and was terrified her secret would be discovered: She never attended college. My guess, and it proved accurate, was that nobody would ever think to ask her. It is probably an even better guess that no patient in a hospital would ask to see a doctor's medical school diploma.