Ted Kramer is having an excellent day,
Until he comes home for Joanna to say
She’s fleeing him, leaving him,
Terribly grieving him,
Finding her own life by getting away.
He isn’t prepared for the loss of his wife,
And now he is forced to reorder his life.
At first, he’s unwilling
But does his best filling
The role she vacated with maximum strife.
As many months pass, he and Billy connect.
Though fatherhood causes vocation neglect,
The bike rides and stories,
The worries and glories
Are moments he treasures more than they expect.
A year and a half of both good and bad later,
Joanna returns, and more struggles await her.
She wants her dear Billy,
But Ted’s rightly chilly.
They each fight in court with their own mean debater.
As both Kramers beg, the judge hears every side,
But Ted’s heartfelt pleas are completely denied;
But, seeing how broken
He is, as a token,
Joanna lets Ted keep their shared joy and pride.

Kramer vs. Kramer features Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep perfectly playing two very imperfect people, roles that won both of them Academy Awards. As most critics mentioned, the film is so compelling because it isn’t black and white. While Joanna is certainly blamed for her abandonment of her responsibilities to her son, she is not vilified for it, and, since the years of assumed neglect are not shown, there is room for her actions being partially justifiable.

Still, the film’s and the audience’s sympathies lie squarely with Ted, who is by no means an ideal parent but does his best, as do we all. His struggles relating to Billy are entirely believable, since he mostly left child duties to Joanna, and his embracing of his paternal role is sweet and gratifying. Even for those who have never had children, the film brilliantly captures the realistic ups and downs of parenthood, from unforeseen accidents that leave parents guilt-ridden to simple joys and routines that are deeply missed when lost.

As I said, the film doesn’t go into the details of what leads to divorce but instead focuses on the negative impact it has on everyone involved. Everybody is miserable, and though they all manage to piece their lives together again, they are still obviously broken. The film overall makes a convincing argument for how fathers, as well as mothers, can be worthy single parents, a growing new concept at the time. The courtroom scenes also provide evidence of why lawyers gain a bad reputation, since the attorneys’ unkind probing and refusal to allow clarification of answers become frustrating for both parties. The final kindness Joanna bestows on Ted may be unlikely in real life, but it feels right, particularly for a film that showcases what a good parent Ted has become. Hoffman and Streep made this Triple A film the Best Picture winner it was, and, as divorce rates remain high, Kramer vs. Kramer’s realism and shared sympathies continue to keep it a timely film.

Best line: (Joanna, emotional at the end) “I woke up this morning, kept thinking about Billy, and I was thinking about him waking up in his room with his little clouds all around that I painted, and I thought I should have painted clouds downtown because then he would think that he was waking up at home. I came here to take my son home. And I realized he already is home.”

Artistry: 10
Characters/Actors: 10
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 9
Watchability: 8
Other (realistic look at divorce): +3
Other (language, one scene with nudity): -1
TOTAL: 47 out of 60


Next: #147 – Die Hard

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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