Chris' Review of Kramer vs. Kramer
Kramer vs. Kramer(1979)
I'd like to warn my readers that if they are going to see the 1979 Oscar-winning drama Kramer vs. Kramer for the sole purpose of seeing Meryl Streep, then they should be prepared to be disappointed since she's not in the movie a whole lot like the posters are claiming. Even though she has claimed one of the two top billings for this movie, she's only in it for about half the length of the film at most. I know such a comment is a little unusual to make, but I think it's important that I mention it now before my readers read the rest of this review. With that said, let's continue to talk about Kramer vs. Kramer.
As far as all of the Best Picture Oscar winning films go, Kramer vs. Kramer is one of the films that I'd only consider okay at best. While it is undeniably well acted and the story is pretty well told, there are still some personal pet peeves that I had with the film. We'll dive into my pros and cons later, let's talk about the film's story first.
Dustin Hoffman plays a very busy advertising executive who has just landed an important assignment that will lead to a big payday. When he gets home late and tries to tell his wife (Meryl Streep) the good news, she tells him that she wants a divorce and leaves him. Whatever reasons why their relationship had deteriorated and whether or not he had been working overtime for the past few years aren't really analyzed or explained that well. There's a scene with the couple in a coffee shop where they act like a happy couple for the first couple seconds, but then they abruptly and forcefully act hostile towards each other that proves that weakness. Anyways, let's keep going.
This divorce becomes a serious issue for him in that he has to take care of their child (Justin Henry) all by himself and the fact that he has too busy a work schedule to take care of him. When they become forced to spend quality time together, they don't care much for each other at first. But to the surprise of very few people in the audience including myself, they start to warm up more to each other. So when the time comes in which the parents have to battle for custody of the child, the child is left with an unbearable situation to undergo.
So what is it about Kramer vs. Kramer that doesn't work that well? Well, as I stated in the introduction, Meryl Streep really isn't given much screen time especially given the fact that her character put this story into motion in the first place. Considering that she started the plot's conflict, she should have been given more focus and depth than what she actually got. Noting that the film lasts more than an hour and a half, I honestly think that she was only in the movie for about half an hour which is very weird. While the writers do handle Hoffman's story fairly well, they could have done much more with Streep's.
But that isn't the only significant problem that I have with this flick. I realize the comment I'm about to make might sound unfair, but as long as reviews such as this are meant to express one's feelings, I feel that it's best to simply say it. I didn't like the kid that the parents were battling over since he came off as sort of an unlikable brat. He's too whiny and fueled with negativity, he causes a lot of trouble, and when he gets himself hurt, I felt no sympathy for him since he sort of had it coming due to the arrogant, careless behavior he commits. While you could argue that he's going through a terrible situation for a child, I could also counter argue that he could have been less obnoxious.
So that's enough complaining about the film's weaknesses, what do I like about this film that makes it worth looking at altogether? As I stated earlier, the film has some very good performances behind it. Dustin Hoffman is believable as the busy father who tries to reconnect with his son in the midst of this unfortunate separation. Jane Alexander is very warm and likable as his neighbor who also has to take care of a child on her own and tries to support him when he most needs it. Although Streep's character isn't really that well thought out, she does the best she can with her performance and it shows.
Despite the fact that there are some plot points that weren't clarified, the storytelling is still efficient and straight to the point as good storytelling should be. I wouldn't say that this is the most original idea for a movie, but it does satisfy 1 1/2 to 2 hours of my time well enough. I think if the kid were less whiny, if the wife was more developed and had more screen time, and if we understood why the relationship went downhill in the first place, Kramer vs. Kramer would have been even better. As it is though, it's decent if far from great.