Title- Hunter and Prey: A Symbiotic Relationship
Author- Jackie (blackat_t7t )
Fandom- Catch Me If You Can (film)
Spoilers- entire movie
Disclaimer- I do not own rights to this film, or the book it was adapted from, or the play adapted from it, nor do I own any of the images used here. Furthermore, this is in no way meant to reflect upon the real people on whom the movie was based. It is simply my interpretation of the events in the movie.
Notes- I know this is more than a month late, and I truly apologize. Better late than never, I hope?
Frank William Abagnale Jr. is one of the most prolific conmen in history, stealing millions of dollars before his nineteenth birthday. Frank runs away from home at the age of sixteen because he refuses to choose between his divorcing parents. He begins forging checks in order to get by, first as a pilot for Pan-American airways, and later as a doctor and a lawyer. A highly intelligent man, he learns to successfully impersonate a doctor simply by watching TV, and passes the Louisiana bar exam after two weeks of study.
Throughout his career in check fraud, Frank continues to keep in contact with his father, intending to steal back the assets his father had lost to the IRS and still holding on to a childish hope of getting his parents back together. He craves attention and approval, particularly from his father, and is very pleased when the newspapers begin to publish articles about his exploits. He pursues many women, but his relationships with them never last long. He has an obsessive-compulsive tendency to tear labels from bottles, and likes to drink milk.
Carl Hanratty is an FBI agent who investigates check fraud. He is divorced, and had a daughter, Grace, who was four at the time. It is revealed after Frank is released from prison around age twenty-four that Grace is now fifteen, making it eleven years since Carl’s divorce. He is not remarried, although his wife is.
Carl’s work is his life, to the point that he even works on Christmas every year, so that the agents with families can go home. After Frank first evades his capture, Carl devotes himself completely to arresting Frank, chasing him around the country and even around the world, despite being told by his superiors to let Frank go.
Aspects of Their Relationship:
Clearly the relationship between FBI agent and conman can be described as that between hunter and prey, but there’s more that that between Carl and Frank. Even though Carl’s pride is wounded and he is insulted when Frank escapes from him the first time, Carl considers Frank a worthy adversary, indeed, the only conman worth his time to try to capture. Frank also has respect for Carl, knowing that the man represents a constant threat to his current lifestyle. The relationship between them is easy to romanticize: testing each other’s intelligence and learning how the other lives and works, without ever meeting face to face more than once.
The Christmas Phone Calls:
As if that weren’t enough, there’s also the phone calls. Every Christmas, Frank calls Carl at his office at the FBI. Carl astutely realizes that it is because Frank, having run away from his family and without anyone who knows him beyond his fake identity, is completely alone every Christmas.
You didn't call just to apologize, did you?-Carl
What do you mean? -Frank
You... you have no one else to call. –Carl
[Frank hangs up]
But what about Carl? He’s divorced, with no family around to speak of, and doesn’t seem to have very good relationships with his fellow FBI agents. If Frank calls because he is alone, Carl is there to answer the calls because he is as well. For each of them, the other is the only person that he can rely on to be there for him during the holidays, when everyone else is with their families. As different as they seem on the outside, they actually have a lot in common, and for both of them, the only person who can truly understand him is the other.
The Need for Attention:
It’s pretty common for children to act out in order to get attention. Frank, however, never grows out of it. His father, who acts like a conman himself, encourages his behavior, which we see in the movie when he laughs with Frank rather than punishing him after Frank impersonates a substitute French teacher at his new school. When Frank begins his career in check fraud, he gets a lot of attention from the press, and is given nicknames like “the Skyway Man” and “the James Bond of the sky.” He, of course, enjoys being the center of attention for so many people. With Carl, however, it’s not just a vague sense of “the world” or “the FBI” paying attention to him, but one man whose name he knows. Moreover, Frank’s life has been filled with change due to the IRS investigation forcing his family to move into progressively smaller homes, and his parents’ divorce. For Frank, having one person who never forgets about him and is totally committed to catching him no matter how long it takes probably feels more like loyalty than hatred. That Carl continues visiting Frank even after he’s been imprisoned in Atlanta shows that the loyalty isn’t purely imagined.
Even if they do see each other as opponents, it’s pretty obvious that for each of them, the other is the most important person in their life. Frank meets Brenda, a nurse, while checking on a friend in the hospital, which prompts him to switch careers from copilot to doctor. He eventually asks Brenda to marry him, and calls Carl to ask for a truce so that he and Brenda can get married and live together in peace. Carl refuses, and tracks Frank down the night before his wedding. Frank flees, telling Brenda to meet him at Miami International in two days so they can escape the country together.
When he arrives, Carl is already there, and has FBI agents and police posted around the airport. Rather than attempting to contact Brenda after she’d left the airport, Frank goes to a college and tells the young women there that he is recruiting stewardesses. With a group of beautiful women around him to distract everyone, he gets into the airport and flies off, walking right past Carl’s FBI agents.
Carl, meanwhile, is asked by one of his agents if they shouldn’t be checking other airports:
Well, how do you know he hasn't rented a car and driven to airports in New York, Atlanta? -agent
Because I'm not in New York. I'm not in Atlanta. -Carl
Clearly, Frank values his relationship with Carl even more than his relationship with the woman he was going to marry. He forgot about her immediately, but rather than drive to a different airport, he flew out from the one where Carl was stationed, even at great personal risk, because he couldn’t bring himself to run away from his rivalry with Carl.
Carl, for his part, ends up tracking Frank’s checks across Europe. Even though his boss expressly forbids him from chasing after Frank, saying that it’s too late and he needs to give up and work other cases, Carl goes to France anyway. He is risking his career, which without his wife and daughter has become his whole life, by ignoring an order, but he still leaves, because the competition between himself and Frank is more important to him.
In their own ways, both Carl and Frank have been living a lie. Frank lies to everyone he knows, but every time he talks to Carl on the phone, he tells the truth- for example, when he tells Carl the exact room in the exact hotel that he’s staying at, although Carl doesn’t believe him. Carl, on the other hand, lies to Frank, because he can’t lie to the people he knows in the rest of his life. He first tells Frank he has no family, then when Frank confronts him about wearing a wedding ring, he says he did, but doesn’t any more. He tells Frank he has a four-year-old daughter, but later changes his story again, finally telling the truth.
You said you were going to Chicago. -Frank
My daughter can't see me this weekend. She's going skiing. -Carl
You said she was four years old. You're lying. -Frank
She was four when I left. Now she's 15. My wife's been remarried for 11 years. I see Grace
every now and again. -Carl
I don't understand. -Frank
Sure you do. Sometimes it's easier living the lie.-Carl
Certainly for Frank it would be easier and more exciting to “live the lie” and pretend to be a pilot, doctor, or lawyer, rather than admitting that he’s a teenaged runaway with no money of his own and no future that doesn’t involve jail. That provides one kind of escape. On the other hand, constantly lying and being loved for a you that doesn’t really exist is also a burden to bear. For this, it is Carl’s phone calls that provide the escape.
Both of them have realities that they try to escape through each other- for Carl, his family situation; and for Frank, the fact that he can never tell anyone the truth without risking being arrested. When talking to the other, they are able to present themselves as something that their real lives won’t let them be, but what they want to be.
When he finally catches up to Frank in France, Carl tells Frank that the French police have the warehouse Frank has been hiding in surrounded. Frank doesn’t believe him and tries to leave. Before he can, Carl tells him that the French police will kill him if he doesn’t surrender.
These people have been embarrassed, Frank. They're angry. You rob their banks, you steal their money, you live in their country. I told you this was what was going to happen; that there was no other way for it to end. Don't make a mistake! –Carl
After Carl swears on his daughter (whom he claims is four) that the police are out there, Frank surrenders, putting Carl’s handcuffs on himself. When he leaves the building with Carl, there are no police. However, they arrive a few seconds later and take Frank away from Carl.
Perhaps the French police would have killed Frank if he hadn’t surrendered by the time they got there. Perhaps Carl knew that. As it is, he did have a reason to worry: when Carl goes to the prison to have Frank extradited, he collapses in his cell. Although this is revealed to be a ploy to escape, Frank only makes it a few feet before he falls to his knees and begins crawling, and eventually collapses. His condition is really very poor, and he is covered in lice, which the guards and doctors don’t seem to care about other than being an inconvenience to them when they bring him from his cell.
If these are the conditions a prisoner who willingly surrendered lives under, Carl probably had a reason to worry if Frank hadn’t surrendered. If he really didn’t care for Frank at all, it wouldn’t have mattered to Carl if Frank were killed or injured while being captured. Even if all he cared about was arresting Frank himself, he still wouldn’t have been so worried when Frank collapsed in his cell, or so horrified at the guard’s dismissive attitude towards the lice. Carl is truly concerned for Frank’s well-being, and even though it means lying to Frank, Carl does what he has to in order to protect him.
This happens again when Carl avoids telling Frank that his father has died since he’s been out of the country. He tells Frank when he asks that he will be able to speak with his father, so that Frank won’t have to face the reality of his father’s death so soon. It isn’t until they are on the plane back to the US that Carl tells Frank the truth. Carl even admits that he didn’t want to be the one who told Frank: he didn’t want to hurt Frank himself by saying it.
In both cases, Carl tries to protect Frank, both physically and emotionally. He’s even willing to lie to Frank, and risk Frank never trusting him again, in order to protect him from a perceived threat.
After being released into FBI custody, Frank attempts to run away by impersonating a pilot again. Carl confronts him, but doesn’t try to stop him.
I'm going to let you fly tonight, Frank. I'm not even going to try to stop you. That's 'cause I know you'll be back on Monday. -Carl
Frank proves himself to be deserving of that trust. He returns on Monday (albeit a little late), and officially abandons his old life to begin working with the FBI, against forgers like he used to be. Carl and Frank, once rivals, become partners. Considering everything they had in common before, they work well together, and are close friends. As partners in a potentially dangerous occupation, they have a great deal of trust for one another, to the point of putting their lives in one another’s hands. Now that the physical barriers between them are removed, and they see each other on a daily basis, it’s not hard to imagine the fascination and attraction that was once purely mental and emotional turning physical as well.
Why I Ship It:
Two words: first scene. I mentioned it above; it’s the scene when Carl has come to France to have Frank extradited (the events in the movie are not in order), and he panics when Frank collapses in his cell. The first time I watched the movie, as soon as I saw that scene I hopped on the internet and started searching for Carl/Frank fanfiction. That scene alone, without the evidence from the rest of the movie, seemed more than enough to have won some fans for this pairing. Imagine my shock when I couldn’t find a single piece of fanfiction! I immediately started writing my first piece, and dropped a post on small_fandoms to see if anyone would discuss it with me (only one person did).
Since then, I’ve written quite a bit for this pairing. I only started writing fanfiction about a year ago, but I’ve written more fics (not words, mind you, but fics) for this pairing than any other. I have ideas for two more fics, and there may be more to come after that.
I’ve googled it extensively, but never found anything more than pieces from other fandoms that use “Catch Me If You Can” as the title or a phrase in the text. I’m afraid that for now all I can give you is my own work. If you know of/have written or made something else, please tell me! I’ll definitely add it to the list!
My small_fandoms post
There is no activity on this. However, the rules of the community say you can repost after three months, and it’s been a year, so if you want to you make a new discussion post, feel free!
These are pretty horrible, as they’re from youtube screenshots and I had no prior experience with icon making. Plus I lack the wittiness needed for good icons.
A losing Battle- PG-13
Carl and Frank look back on their lives, and the role each has played in the other's.
Frank's compulsion to tear off labels becomes a problem. (gen or slash depending on how you read it)
Lice Shampoo and Hand Lotion- NC-17
Carl and Frank connect during their night in the French hotel.
Neutral Ground- PG-13
Frank and Carl meet in the one place where neither of them has an advantage.
Of Sisters and Daughters- PG
Frank thinks about families, both his own and Carl’s.
(Sending All My Love) Along the Wire- PG-13
Carl gets a call the night his ex-wife tells him she and their daughter are moving away.
In my opinion, A Losing Battle and Lice Shampoo and Hand Lotion do the best job of expressing the relationship between the two of them. Those are the ones I recommend.