Plot: What’s it about?
Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) has a family at home that he loves, but he spends too much time at work, which stresses his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) to no end. But one night when he returns home late, as usual, Joanna confronts him and an argument follows, one which changes their lives forever. Joanna leaves Ted that night and that means he has to care for their son Billy (Justin Henry), which won’t be an easy task. But Ted does his best to be a good father and spend time with his son, as well as covering his work and other obligations. The two have a shaky start as Ted tries to balance his load, but soon enough, he is able to keep his home and work in check. In no time, the two have become closer than ever and Ted feels complete inside, due to the love of his son, as well as his love for his child. But when Joanna returns and demands to have her son back, Ted’s new life is threatened, to be sure. As Ted and Joanna Kramer head to court to battle for their son, will Ted’s recent turn be enough to win over the judge, or will his workaholic past come back to haunt him, forcing him to let his son go?
This movie doesn’t have a lot of flash, but it was made at just the right time, to strike a chord with audiences and critics. Kramer vs. Kramer is a realistic story of course, because events as seen in it happen all the time, perhaps each and every day. The subject of divorce had been avoided by most films, but still used at times, but rarely to this extent. One of the main reasons this picture works so well, is that shows the ripples that divorce can cause, not only in the parents and children, but anyone associated with those involved. The focus is on the father and his son, but you can see the impact all around them, which is very powerful stuff. As good as the movie is, I am surprised it won so many awards, as it is very normal and natural in approach, without a lot of needless trimmings and such. The visuals don’t really spark much and the direction is solid, but not innovative, but Kramer vs. Kramer works because of the subject matter, writing, and performances. I don’t think this was the best movie of 1979, but it is a terrific and memorable picture, so if you’re at all interested, don’t hesitate to check this out.
His performance here is fantastic, so it is no wonder Dustin Hoffman took home a Best Actor Oscar for his efforts. But then again, we almost expect excellence from Hoffman every time out of the gate, or at least at the time this film was released. He has a very normal, natural character in this movie and he plays it to perfection, without intense flash or unneeded depth, just a normal person in tense, dramatic situation. I like how Hoffman never tries to carry this into over the top territory, but he could have with ease, so I am thankful he remained low key most of the time. Hoffman may have taken a few steps down the ladder with his more recent choices of roles, but he is still a gifted performer and if nothing else, we’ll always have his earlier works, right? You can also see Hoffman in such films as Rain Man, The Graduate, Marathon Man, Wag the Dog, Jonas in the Desert, Straw Dogs, Midnight Cowboy, and All the President’s Men. The cast also includes Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart, Sophie’s Choice), JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist, The Big Chill), and Jane Alexander (The Cider House Rules, Brubaker).
Video: How does it look?
Kramer vs. Kramer is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I was a little skeptical about how good this transfer could be, but aside from some grain at times, this is a tremendous visual presentation. The image is much cleaner and sharper than expected, thanks to an almost pristine source print, which was a most welcome surprise. I’ve never seen this movie look so crisp and refined, while detail is higher than ever before, this is simply a marvelous effort in all respects. Some grain and debris can be seen at times, but not very much and the flaws are always minor in scale, so no need to be concerned. The colors look natural and bright, while contrast is stark and always remains well balanced, no problems in the least to report. This is another superb catalog transfer from Columbia, so fans should be most pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
As this film is very much based in reality, the included mono option is more than adequate, to be sure. You’ll hear some sound effects of course, but the main focus is on dialogue and as such, mono is more than up to the tasks involved. I heard no signs of distortion or hiss, which is good news and on the whole, the elements seem in fine form. The dialogue is sharp and never falters, while the volume balance is consistent and keeps it all in tune. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The real draw in the supplements is Finding the Truth: The Making of Kramer vs. Kramer, which is a terrific documentary, without a doubt. Via retrospective interviews and other sources, we’re taken behind the scenes of the flick, to learn about the production, the impact, and of course, various inside stories that unfolded. The piece runs almost fifty minutes and is very well made, I only wish all films included a documentary of this level. I commend Columbia for creating and including this superb feature, especially on a catalog title like this one. This disc also includes some talent files, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.