Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

(On Cable TV, July 2017) Nearly forty years later, there are things about divorce drama Kramer vs. Kramer that have aged poorly, but the film itself does still carry a good chunk of its original impact. While single dads are more commonplace nowadays, the pain of divorce proceedings remains portrayed with heart-wrenching effect. Dustin Hoffman is good as an advertising executive suddenly asked to be a single dad after his wife leaves abruptly—the sequence in which he seeks a job on Christmas Eve remains a highlight of the film. Meryl Streep doesn’t have the most sympathetic of roles as the disappearing wife, but she’s amazing in her own ways. The script does appear to cheat in its final moments (and it does come really close to misogyny in portraying Streep’s character—fortunately, she gets a monologue to explain herself), adding even more drama to the entire film. The portrayal of late-seventies New York City is fascinating in itself, and much of the film still plays effectively even today. What doesn’t quite play so well is the reactionary content—while there’s a conscious attempt here to tips the scales and argue in favour of fatherhood, it seems really blunt by today’s standards. Kramer vs. Kramer hasn’t become a more sympathetic movie along the way, though, so viewers may want to steel themselves for an unpleasant experience.

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