4 out of 5
- 2014-01-04 21:45:47
Sport constantly speaks of legendary match ups, each claiming its own to be the most intense and exciting of all; Football has Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, Cricket has England vs. Australia, and not to be outdone, Tennis speaks highly of Nadal Vs Federra. But with 5 Oscars between them, Dustin Hoffmann vs. Meryl Strep for me it is the greatest matchup of them all.
It was a cold winter’s morning on what was the eve of the eve of Christmas, rather bored with the usual TV Christmas offerings, especially after seeing Wizard of OZ and It’s a Wonderful Life for the billionth year running. I fancied a change so I decided to rent a DVD from the library. Upon arriving I was surprised to find that it was just about to close earlier than usual on account of Christmas, but as I was just about to turn around and walk back home, suddenly just pass the right shoulder of the rather pretty 20 something librarian (not at all like the stereotype) a golden halo engulfed a particular film on the top row, Kramer vs. Kramer starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, and slowly like a mouth attracted to a flame, I was sucked in. So after using my award winning charm to convince the librarian to let me in for a couple of seconds just to burrow the film, I returned home with the DVD. Then all most like a scene from a Harry Potter, it practically flew out of my arms, straight into my computer and begin playing almost by magic. What follows was an unforgettable whirlwind of a roller coaster of emotions and a sublime demonstration of actors at their very prime, who had visibly spent all most of their lives carefully developing their craft, dedicating themselves to the work and doing the best with their natural talents. Making for one of the best ensemble performances I have seen in a very long while.
A screenplay written and directed by Robert Benton, based on the novel by Avery Corman centre’s on the turbulent first couple of years experienced by a high flying advertising exec Dustin Hoffman, who upon receiving the greatest boost to his career yet, simultaneously has his world turned upside down, when his a wife Meryl Streep decides to walk out on me, leaving him in sole care of their 5 year old son. At first the Hoffman character finds it difficult to manage a career and a small child, which eventually means he gets fired, but soon with the help of Margaret (Jane Alexander) a friend of his wife’s help, he becomes better accustomed with the father role, which turns out that he is actually quite good at. But just when his relationship with the boy grows increasingly stronger, the mother returns 18 months later and drops another bombshell on him as well as myself, when she files for exclusive custody. What follows is a long painful struggle for a boy they both deeply care about and love.
The film itself earned Robert Benton an Oscar for Best Director and Adapted screenplay, but his existence and triumph. From a technical perspective, the film was near perfect never a note out of place. But rightly or wrongly he is almost completely sidetracked by the mammoth performance of the two leads Dustin and Meryl. Although retrospectively looking back it shouldn't have been of much a surprise when you take into account both actors film CV’s. With 5 Oscars between them, both are very impressive, just Dustin alone (Aka the king of the 70’s) has appeared in a whole host of critically acclaimed masterpieces, among them are; Midnight Cowboy (My personal favourite) Rain Man (his Oscar winner) and Straw Dogs (His most underrated film). Then you have Meryl with; Deer Hunter (My favourite war film), Out of Africa (my favourite Meryl performance outside of Kramer vs. Kramer) and Sophie’s Choice. What I loved most about her performance here was her ability to draw empathy from the audience, even when her characters actions in the hands of another actress, would make her extremely unlikable person. Yet Meryl even from the start when we see her in the close up, with all the love and affection in her eyes as she looks down to her child, you can tell the decision to leave was extremely difficult, even brave. While Dustin also showcased a controlled performance, in a place where less experience actors would have overdone it, with the Oscars in mind, Dustin’s only focus was to portray such a complex character as honestly as he could, and do the source material justice, but most importantly he gave a very giving performance to anyone with the pleasure of sharing the screen with him, allowing himself as well as them to shine. Kramer vs. Kramer is a stunning demonstration of fine acting talent, and would serve any aspiring young actor or actress as a seminal manual in the acting craft at its very best.