Thursday, July 31, 2014
Retro Review: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
I myself am a child of divorce and when it happened the first time, it didn't really hit me because I was so young. But when I watched this film, it was after the second time. Thanks to this film, I was able to really get a grasp of how stressful it is for those involved, whether it'd be the child or the parents themselves.
Kramer vs. Kramer follows the story of a workaholic named Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) who finds his life in a rough spot once his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) suddenly leaves him with their young son Billy (Justin Henry). Ted must then fight for custody for his son while actually learn to become a father more than before.
Since the film deals with divorce, I loved how it manages to not point fingers. It never says that one parent is better than the other or more fit to take care of the kid than the other. It just says that their faults were the cause of their separation. Plus, the film realistically displays the frustrations that divorce causes. We mostly see how it affects Ted. It causes him to become more flustered and at times his frustration is taken out on the son. Yet, when we watch Ted's conflict, we recognize that those of us who have gone through his situation or a situation where we just get mad never actually mean the hurtful things they say to those they love. It reminds me of one point not too long ago where my dad and I had a leaking pipe in the house and he was quite flustered while I was shaken. I knew he wasn't actually mad AT me, just with what was going on. We even see how the divorce affects the son himself. So I really applaud the screenwriter/director Robert Benton for creating such an accurate depiction of divorce and how it affects those involved.
I also thought the actors did a fantastic job. Dustin Hoffman really excels as the father who tries to actually become the father to his son that he had trouble being before. I even liked the scenes between him and Justin Henry and how they play off each other. I even liked the rough scenes between them, like the scene where Ted snaps after Billy disobeys him by eating the ice cream before finishing his dinner, because they were just so powerful. But one actress I'd like to acknowledge is some actress by the name of Ms. Meryl Streep. Even though she only has a handful of scenes, she really brings it home in all of them, but in a rather low-key way. In her more quiet scenes, we get a glimpse of how she takes in the events that are occurring around her.
Overall, Kramer vs. Kramer is a brutally realistic yet less patronizing look at the roughness of divorce. It succeeds thanks to the brilliant screenwriting and astounding acting from the cast. I feel that anyone who has gone through divorce, whether they have actually been divorced or is a child of divorce can certainly relate to this in some way and if you are any of these things, I would highly recommend you see this film. Plus, the film has Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, which doesn't hurt.