Catching up with the Classics: Kramer vs. Kramer

Next up on my list of classics to watch: Kramer vs. Kramer. Now, this isn’t on AFI’s Top 100 list, which I initially figured would guide me through my choices for awhile. But, I decided that in my humble opinion (which, really, is the driving force behind this whole thing) it counted as a classic. So, here we are.

I liked the movie, perhaps more than I expected I would. It’s one of those movies that I think is really well done, and that I enjoyed watching, but that I don’t know if I would actually buy and watch regularly. It’s good, but not quite feel good.

My thoughts:

  • It is weird to see Meryl Streep (as Joanna) be the “bad guy,” so to speak. Well, maybe “bad guy” is too strong a label, but she definitely is a challenging character, and it’s tough to like someone who walks out on her son (even if her life sucked). And yet, even though I was angry at her, I still sympathized with her. That’s the genius of Meryl Streep.
  • I was very moved by the evolution of the father/son relationship between Ted and Billy. At first, I was sort of like, what the hell, Dustin Hoffman? Why are you being such a jerk? And could you stop swearing at your young son all the time? It was like Ted and Joanna were competing to see who could be the most selfish/unlikable parent. And, at first Ted was totally winning. But then he changed, and I melted. So good.
  • I love the moment when the Ted’s lawyer is berating Meryl Streep and shouts, “were you a failure???” and Dustin Hoffman mouths “no” to her. To me, that’s so much more powerful than if they flat out hated each other. And so much more true to life, I think.
  • The breakfast scene the morning after Meryl Streep leaves is crazy. Dustin Hoffman is so manic. I don’t know if it’s brilliant or ridiculous.
  • Part of me wanted Ted to end up with the sympathetic friend (Margaret, played by Jane Alexander). Yes, the rom-com-cliché-loving girl inside me is hard to suppress.
  • I enjoyed the music over the credits. So jaunty! But, after thinking about it, maybe not quite reflective of the movie’s more somber tone?
  • Lots of good small moments in this movie. I love the one where father and son are eating breakfast together in silence: matching white undershirts, each reading the newspaper, each eating a chocolate donut. Perfect.
  • I kept thinking about how much therapy this kid is going to need when he grows up. Mom abandons you, then comes back and sues for custody; dad has moments of rage and is overall a little nutty; you see one of your dad’s lovers naked in the hallway. Yikes.

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