The Abagnales divorce because of cheating. They ask Frank Jr. to pick a side, and he does. He picks his dad. Frank takes his father's con-man lifestyle and turns it up to eleven, partly to run away from trouble, and partly to give his dad his Cadillac back. Life has been unfair to him--he's lost his business, his reputation and his wife. Except that as Frank spends 4 years fleeing an exuberantly filmed ticker tape parade of phony checks, he realizes that his dad was the cheater. You don't want to see it because he's so loving, but his dad charmed and manipulated the world before it ever had a chance to be fair.
Frank is chased by the FBI throughout the movie, but his conflicts are all internal: the excitement of lying and the longing to be honest; the joy of creativity and the loneliness of living a lie.
(Frank and Agent Handratty, both alone in the dark on Christmas Eve, when Frank tells him honestly where he is, and Handratty says, "you don't have anyone else to call.")
People watch this movie and say they loved it--but not because it was any good! Those people are wrong. This is one of the best movies ever made. Every performance is filled with charm and sincerity. The score is lively and clever but never manipulative. The cinematography is drop dead gorgeous. This movie is hosed down in light and color. It's like light and color making out for two and a half hours.
Mostly, the power of this movie comes from the fact that Frank grows up while pretending to be a grownup, so all his intense coming-of-age moments are tinged with nostalgia even as he's experiencing them for the first time. No one is surprised that Spielberg does that with perfect sincerity. You might be surprised that he also makes it funny.
Also, that era in the sixties that we all know was corrupt and broken inside, just underneath its veneer of side parts and big cars? That's put across with honesty, yet without any cynicism or irony. That a movie could feel so lighthearted while doing all that is practically miraculous.