Monday, 30 January 2012

Kramer vs. Kramer

Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979
Directed by Robert Benton
Nominated for 9 Oscars, Won 5
Won BP Over: All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away and Norma Rae

Synopsis: Ted Kramer is caught off guard when his wife, Joanna, announces she's leaving him, and leaving their 5 year old son. Ted is a career man, and while he likes to think he has a clue about his son, he doesn't really. Slowly, he grows to know his son well, and become a better father than he ever was. And once he settles into that role, his son loving him and he loving his son, Joanna returns and wants their son, Billy, back.

This film won a lot of the big awards that year. Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor, Meryl Streep won Best Supporting Actress, Robert Benton won Best Director, It won best adapted screenplay, as well as Best Picture. While it was a little bit cliche, here 33 years later, I know at the time the idea was quite original. The father a workaholic, seeing divorce from (kind of) equal sides. It was a moving story about the pain of divorce, and just how selfish it is, especially when there's a child in the picture.

I thought this was an emotional piece about a father who's able to turn his life around for his kids and about how divorce ruins lives. Ted Kramer hardly knows his child when his wife leaves him (not unlike Matt King in this year's The Descendants), but after working hard, getting to know his son, and realizing just what it takes to not just be a father, but to be a "daddy" to his little son, changed their relationship. It shows just how much parenthood changes you, and just how much family matters in your life, whether you want it to or not. It's the age-old idea that while career is important, don't make it the most important thing.

Dustin Hoffman played Ted Kramer perfectly. He was able to bring out so many sides of Ted, and make him such a real person. We saw the angry sides of Ted, telling his son he hates him, angry his wife left him, and angry the lawyers in court won't listen to him when he's trying to say his son is everything to him. We see him become the better parent, supporting his son, listening to him, and realizing all his son wants is love from his father. He doesn't care if his father is doing all the "right things" a father should do, he just wants his daddy to love him. With that being said, Billy, played by Justin Henry, was also nominated for his acting. He played Billy so well, really bringing him to life, and really seeming to understand the character. We see his immense sadness, and his pure joy, and his anger. He is still, currently, the youngest nominee in Academy History, being 8 years old.

Continuing on the acting note, this was Meryl Streep's first Oscar win, and second nomination. While she didn't have a very large part in the film, she was really good. She was such an unsympathetic character, yet at the same time, you almost did sympathize her. She brought the perfect balance of vulnerability to the role, yet a fierceness of a mother wanting her child back. She captured who Joanna Kramer was so well, and, again, brought her to life. But did I expect anything less of Meryl? I did not.

Overall, I liked the film very much. It was moving, and heartbreaking, and endearing. It may me ponder the idea of marriage, and just how sad it is nobody seems to be able to keep their promises anymore. And this film showed the consequences of that. People's lives are ruined, and they are very hard to fix. So many things in marriages can be fixed if one only tries. Had Joanna sought help for her marriage, things would've been very different. But the vows say "for better or for worse". So when the worse comes, why do people use it as an excuse to divorce? If anything, that's the time to stand firm in your relationship, and really try. Because marriage isn't easy. Feelings are easy, commitment takes effort.

Acting- 8.5/10     
Directing- 8/10     
Screenplay- 8/10     
Music – 7.5/10    
Visuals- 7.5/10     
Entertaining- 8/10    
Emotional Connection- 8/10     
Rewatchability- 7.5/10     
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10     
Overall Package- 7.5/10      

Total: 78.5/100

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