Meet the Kramers
Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) has a wife, Joanna (Meryl Streep), and a son, Billy (Justin Henry), but he also has a career he loves in advertising and as such he is always working. It is why when Ted arrives home late one night with news that he has been given another big client he is shocked to discover that Joanna is not only leaving him but also their son Billy. Now Ted has to change his priorities and learn how to be a father which is not easy as Billy blames him for his mother leaving and Ted sees Billy as the reason why he can't do what he loves. But over time they become a great little team and really close which is a problem when 15 months after leaving Joanna shows up and wants custody of Billy leading to them going to court over him.
Two things sprang to mind as I watched "Kramer vs. Kramer" starting with it being a movie for those who watched it back in 1979. That isn't to say it is no longer entertaining but there have been quite a few movies since about a parent or grown up dealing with having to look after a child on their own and so some of the power of it has been lost. It's not that it doesn't cover everything in fact it is an incredibly thorough movie which takes us through various stages from the initial difficulties of cooking a breakfast and buying the right groceries to the bonding which eventually comes between father and son.
The other thing is that "Kramer vs. Kramer" is one of those movies which is so well loved that there is a certain sense of obligation to love it just as much. But as I said this is a movie which whilst good seems to have a greater impact on those who watched it back in 1979. As such there is the performance of Dustin Hoffman as Ted and it is a very good performance as he grows the character, making the changes he goes through almost natural. But it is his big reactions to everything which for me don't work so well when watched now because they don't feel realistic. It isn't just Dustin Hoffman as Meryl Streep is the same and it is a case that their performances and the writing of the characters has that verboseness of characters who like to talk out loud about everything and don't know how to be quiet.
It's not that I dislike "Kramer vs. Kramer" it is still a well written movie which takes us on a journey with an emotional wringer ending but as I keep on saying it is a movie which seems to be most powerful for those who experienced it back in the late 70s where its focus on Ted dealing with being a dad may have been something not seen before.
What this all boils down to is that "Kramer vs. Kramer" whilst still a very good movie has lost some of its power over the years. From the writing and acting styles to the whole storyline it is now a case that it is both a little familiar and dated.