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Argumentative August #35 – Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) – Filmfunkel

Rob and I would like to once again welcome you to another review for our Argumentative August Blogathon. This next film, Kramer vs. Kramer is being reviewed by Tim at Filmfunkel. Let’s see what he thought of this movie…

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Kramer vs Kramer – it can be argued – might be the definitive anti-courtroom drama. The sub-genre is known for its smart, shrewd, chess-like matches battling in the furnace of the legal system. The one playing best wins, but their stories are predicated upon law. They are fought by lawyers and never by parents.

Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman), on the eve of his biggest promotion, comes home to a wife with a packed suitcase. She’s leaving him – him and their 5-year-old son, Billy.  Step-by-step, Ted painfully sheds his workaholic ego for love of his son.

18 months later, Ted has grown, changed, realized much and transformed his love for Billy into exemplary fatherhood. They live a stable, loving life. All is well.

Re-enter Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep). Returned ex-wife, therapied-up and ready to take her son back. It goes to court – how can it not? And divorce lawyers don’t play nice.

Normally, the lawyers, their tactics, and their powerful arguments take over. At no point, though, does one’s attention ever leave the Kramers, nor was it ever meant to. Their hearts – not their disputes – are meant be watched, soaked in, felt – and felt deeply.

Far from legal thrills, we are immersed in the sobering complexities behind such a case. It challenges our notions of responsibility in marriage, love, careers and parenting. It makes us rethink our capacity for change. Their character growth, more than the verdict, takes center stage.

The acting is, of course, brilliant. Though Hoffman and Henry get the most screen time, everyone is tops. The score is gorgeous with classical stringed sets. It’s a moving film with a simple premise that relies on nothing more than its actors.

It’s also a fine courtroom drama. Should it, therefore, be likened with 12 Angry MenAnatomy of a Murder or A Few Good Men? Eh – the jury’s still out.

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