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USA 1979
Directed by
Robert Benton
104 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Kramer vs Kramer

Director Robert Benton adapted Avery Corman's best-selling novel about the breakdown of a marriage and the struggles of a single father (Dustin Hoffman) to keep his son for this film that swept the Oscars in the year of its release. It won Best Picture, Best Actor (Hoffman), Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting actress for Meryl Streep although Best Picture co-nominee Apocalypse Now.would probably win in a re-match today.

The film was originally supposed to be directed by Francois Truffaut but Benton. who had co-written Bonnie And Clyde (1967) and Superman (1978) with fellow Esquire editor, David Newman, managed to wrest the job away from him. To do so and get Hoffman, however, he ceded script and editing changes to the actor who at that time was at the peak of his career (and it was largely downhill from here, Tootsie, 1982, notwithstanding).

Hoffman, who that year beat Al Pacino in And Justice For All for the Best Actor Oscar gives an empathetic performance, as does Streep in her smaller role, whilst Justin Henry is impressively good as their seven-year old child.

Although well-written the script is too skewed towards Hoffman's character's viewpoint to be truly effective, the patriarchal, workaholic aspects of his behaviour, which are supposed to have driven his wife to leave both him and her child being alluded to but not really evident. In fact, Kramer appears to be a model husband and father and his wife a rather creepy New Age neurotic in what amounts to a David and Goliath story that no doubt divorced fathers everywhere could relate to.




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