Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) Review

12 03 2012

Copyright 1979 Columbia Pictures

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Maddie had never seen this film and it had been probably 7-10 years since my last viewing, so we decided to fire it up on Netflix Instant Watch on Saturday night to wind down the evening.

Dustin Hoffman plays Ted Kramer, an NYC art director at a Madison Avenue advertising firm, who his quickly climbing his way up the corporate ladder.  At home, he has his wife, Joanna (Meryl Streep), and son, Billy (Justin Henry).  After learning he has just scored a huge account with the company that could be his ticket to success, his wife announces that she is leaving him and Billy.  At first, he thinks it’s some kind of a joke, but soon realizes that Joanna is serious about deserting her family, leaving him to raise their six-year-old son.  For a man who has constantly focused on his occupation, the added responsibilities of raising Billy are a hard-learned process.  However, as time passes, he and Billy grow quite close and their relationship blossoms.  After nearly a year and a half away, Joanna decides to return to New York from California, and wants to take custody of Billy.  Having now built a life with his son, Ted refuses to had over custody and the issue ends up in court, where many settlements are given to the woman out of gender stereotype alone.

This is a very solid film.  By synopsis, it might sound simple, but it is the sum of the parts that make this film such an enjoyable and wonderful experience.  The unobtrusive direction and tight script by Robert Benton, amazing performances by Hoffman, Streep and 8-year-old newcomer Henry, and naturalistic cinematography by Nestor Almendros, all intertwine beautifully in creating this touching movie.  Henry became, and still is, the youngest nominee for an Academy Award in the competitive categories for his Best Supporting Actor nod, though he didn’t win.  Among other nominations, the film did win Best Picture, Best Actor for Hoffman, Best Supporting Actress for Meryl Streep, and Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Robert Benton.

There is nothing grandiose about this picture; it is simply a small film with the basic elements of telling a story visually.  However, it succeeds on such a level that I think nearly any audience member would enjoy Kramer vs. Kramer and find it immensely entertaining.  It goes to show how important a good story and solid characters are in motion picture production and makes me long for more simple, yet concrete stories like this one to come back to the forefront of American cinema.





The King’s Speech (2010) Review

15 06 2011

Copyright See-Saw Films 2010

★ ★ ★ ★

Where to start?  Well, I think Academy Award winners and nominees might be a good place to freshen up the new stock of reviews to come from the back log.  Why not start here with last year’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech? Sounds like a plan to me.

This was one of the few films last year I actually made it to the theater for.  I hate to say it, but with Netflix, I have become increasingly lazy with the idea of driving to the theater and paying $7 to $8 to watch a picture, but some films are worth seeing on the big screen.  After the well-referred reviews and Oscar nominations this film garnered, I figured it’d be worth the admission.  In the end, it was.

The film revolves around King George VI’s (Colin Firth) reign as monarch of the British Empire beginning in 1936 and primarily focusing on his rule through World War II.  Bertie, as he is referred by friends and family, assumes the throne following the abdication by his elder brother Edward VIII.  Though well brought up to be king, the newly named monarch is worried about his noticeable stammer.  Having been to many specialists for correction over the years, he is quite reluctant to try another; however, at his wife’s behest, he begins sessions with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist with unique methods.  Their tumultuous relationship as “doctor” and patient, result in a lasting friendship and new found courage for the king.

Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Writing, Directly for the Screen, this is a solid film.  Firth and Rush are brilliant in their respective roles, as is Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen Mother.  The direction by Tom Hooper is stagy and textbook, but works for the picture which is driven by performance.  A bit tailored for its eventual Oscar glory, being that it is exactly what the Academy likes to see (historical, period piece, drama), it is still an interesting telling of a truly inspiring story.








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