the fresh films reviews

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Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Robert Benton
Kramer mot Kramer
104 minutes
Stanley R. Jaffe
Screenwriter (based on the novel by Avery Corman):
Robert Benton

Cast includes:

Ted Kramer Dustin Hoffman
Joanna Kramer Meryl Streep
Margaret Phelps Jane Alexander
Billy Kramer Justin Henry
John Shaunessy Howard Duff
Phyllis Bernard JoBeth Williams



In the wake of the sexual revolution and female liberation of the 1960s and 70s, there arose a number of social and structural issues which arguably neither the instigating feminists nor the disdained traditionalists had anticipated. The most remarkable achievement of Kramer vs. Kramer is not only that it is able to put these issues under the microscope without the benefit of historical distance, but that writer/director Robert Benton does it with remarkable perspective and perception.

The result is a beautiful and soulful drama filled with poignant observations of everyday pleasures and grief in the aftermath of the break-up of a modern, urban family. Along with Benton's careful storytelling, the acting is of the very highest order, with Dustin Hoffman giving perhaps the finest performance of his illustrious career. He won the Oscar for his work, and so did a young and aptly soul-searching Meryl Streep who is able to convey the ethical ambiguity of her character's actions without making her unsympathetic or insensitive. Jane Alexander provides fine support work, but it is perhaps little Justin Henry who makes the film so emotionally effective with one of the best child performances in the history of cinema. He was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting role, and several decades later, he still remains the youngest ever actor nominee.

Kramer vs. Kramer is a simple and intrinsically optimistic film. It doesn't principally want to be a controversial messenger, but rather an illuminator, and that's why it works so well. Add to that the positive energy brought to the screen by Dustin Hoffman, and you have a classic film filled with sadness and drama, but which is ultimately uplifting.

Rereview: Copyright 28.6.2011 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review:
Copyright 6.5.1996  Fredrik Gunerius Fevang