Monday, June 21, 2010

#165 Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)


Director: Robert Benton

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, Justin Herry, Howard Duff, George Coe, JoBeth Williams

Ted Kramer (Hoffman) is obsessed with his job, and he stays late to tell jokes with the boss. Joanna Kramer (Streep) is a housewife who is losing it, and she chain smokes on the couch at night. And then, suddenly, she leaves her husband and 5 year old boy to find herself. Lost, upset, and conflicted, Ted has to learn how to be a decent father. He has to learn to juggle his two lives-- his life at home (grief, loneliness, fatherhood) and his professional life as a successful, stressed out art director. In a way that is not too sickenly sweet to stomach, this film is the story about a man becoming... well, a real man... a father.

When Joanna returns over a year later to fight for custody of her son, things get even harder. When Ted loses his job in the middle of the custody battle, things get even harder yet.

And well, the ending is something I won't spoil in this review.

Even though Hoffman and Streep are two of my favorite actors (especially Hoffman!), I was reluctant to watch this film based off of its description. I figured it would be cheesy and sentimental-- and worst of all, not real. But with Oscars for not only best actor, best actress, but even best picture! Well, I gave it a try.

I was moved by the simplicity of this film. Having seen its poor imitators (Big Daddy much?), I was pleasantly surprised with the honesty of this film. The moments of father-son bonding were never unreal, never too contrived. They were simple, and they were warm. One of the most outstanding moments of the film is Dustin Hoffman on the stand as a witness in the courtroom. I paraphrase: "If a woman is every much as equal to be in the workplace and be a strong woman, then why does a man not have an equal right to be a loving, nurturing single parent?"

I thought the acting was brilliant, and I thought it was just the right amount of emotion. I am really pleasantly surprised to love this film. Delightful.

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