Kramer Vs. Kramer belongs to an era of cinema when subtle errors are conveniently overlooked by virtue of it being fairly primitive with respect to current day. I’m saying that you need to understand that this movie belongs to the same period that the Star Wars original trilogy came out. The beauty of Star Wars is that everything about it is beyond what an ordinary audience fathomed. Thereby we forgave the movies for subtle errors like terrible acting.
So where did Kramer Vs. Kramer err?
This movie is perfection from start to finish. All the accolades it has received are more than just well deserved. Robert Benton created a screenplay so tight and well rounded that you’d think there’s so little enhancement that the other departments could do. But boy, you’d be wrong. Benton fantastically translates his screenplay onto the screen with his direction, by helping us embrace a very intimate situation, relatable albeit archaic. What I love about Benton’s script is also that he at no point demonises any of his characters.
Conflicts are written very well to the point where all sides of the situation have their floor. I don’t just mean the actual Kramer vs. Kramer court situation in the final act. Every conflict in this movie is fair sided. Even when it comes to the primary conflict of the difference in perception within the Kramer couple, I at no point find myself taking a side. I instead get to witness a beautiful unfurling of underdeveloped relationships, blooming into something far from perfect, but apt enough to be worthy of audience relativity.
Now. Keeping the best for the last. Although, Benton absolutely hands down deserves the biggest chunk of credit, this movie soars so high easily because of the finest of acting. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep were probably already stars by this point of their careers. But its performances like these that seals them as the legends that they are today. I never found a single frame of underperformance or even a single dialogue over dramatised. To be very fair, a humungous shoutout is due for Justin Henry for his portrayal of the 6 year old son Billy. Henry had me sold in the very first scene he has with Hoffman in which there is the establishment of the current father-son relationship.
Going back to Benton, there is so so much that he got right with his execution. My favourite thing about the movie are the father and son scenes where they figure breakfast out. A couple of them don’t even have dialogue. But as the movie progresses, the coherence of making breakfast improves, reflecting that of the relationship. Also, I love how the movie scoring is on equation with actual music being played on the screen. I haven’t watched too many movies preceding this era to note if anyone has already pulled this idea off. Of course now loads of movies incorporate this tactic. But needless to say, I was impressed.
I’ve already touched upon how perceptively and fairly the characters are written. But it’s imperative to mention how the secondary characters pull of a pretty fair job as well. For instance, I loved the neighbour portrayed by Jane Alexander with all her influence and vulnerability with the couple. In fact, what also stands out is how her relationship with Hoffman’s character remains consistently platonic without resorting to troubling cliches.
In conclusion, it’s more than obvious that this goes down in history as a classic, and to movie lovers is an absolute must watch.