KRAMER VS KRAMER

article-1024304-017CF1CB00000578-885_468x309

Overall Impression – A classic I wish I’d seen sooner.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Ted Kramer.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: balance being a single parent with his treasured career.  Personal: develop a genuine father/son relationship.  Private: realize what his priorities in life are.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Ted’s his own worst enemy, but deflectors include his ex-wife and his boss at the ad agency.

What happens if he fails? – Ted will lose his son.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan –Ted’s a ghost to his family because he puts his work first.  He barely has a relationship with his wife, and has pretty much no relationship with his son.

Wanderer – Ted figures out how to balance being a single parent and a working professional, and wrestles with why his wife left him and abandoned their son.  His priorities begin to change as his son becomes more important in his life.

Warrior – Ted starts experiencing genuine pleasure in being a real father, but when his ex-wife returns seeking custody of their son, Ted does everything in his power to build his case to win the upcoming court battle, including getting a new job in one day.

Martyr –  Ted and his ex-wife go to court, where the lawyers tear both of them apart.  Ted loses custody of his son, and while he could appeal the court’s decision, to do so would only make his son suffer, so he decides to let the kid stay with his mother.

AND, IN THE END…

The premise behind KRAMER VS KRAMER never sparked an interest for me when I was younger, but I wish I’d seen it sooner.   It’s a funny, moving movie, and Kramers Sr. and Jr. make for a great pairing.

Often, the first plot point of a movie introduces the hero, the villain or the victim (often as the stakes character).  The second plot point illustrates the hero’s flaw in relation to the stakes character.  If Kramer senior is the hero, and little Kramer is the stakes character, then what is Kramer senior’s flaw?  He’s a workaholic and never has time for his family. In contrast, little Kramer is a play-aholic and ONLY has time for his family.  These characters are polar opposites, conflict inevitably happens, and they learn and grow from each other.

Of course, the pairing of opposites isn’t anything new, but it’s always interesting to see how such dynamics play out, and valuable to learn from them when they’re done so well.

Dan Pilditch

4 Responses to “KRAMER VS KRAMER”

  1. David Goulet February 12, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    Totally agree Dan. Not a film I’d have any intitial interest in, but the storytelling is so well done it hooks you in bigtime. To get a story noticed like this today it would have to be pitched: “It’s Kramer vs Kramer, but with vampires.”

  2. Nick February 14, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    And yet it’s a film that has deep relevance to our culture, I think. Kramer seemed to have his priorities flipped – in the beginning Kramer uses his family as a means to support his job. The job, Kramer believes, is his primary responsibility as a husband and father. After his wife leaves him, little Kramer becomes an adversary to big Kramer’s priorities. Big Kramer is totally out of his element when it comes to being a husband and a parent, as witnessed in the french toast scene. And that’s one reason why he resists change so strongly. Notice how relaxed Kramer shows himself to be in the office, before he gets fired. Contrast that to his terror of the kitchen. Little Kramer impacts him at his most basic level – and in the end i think that big Kramer comes to see that a job is not so much about self-fulfillment as it is the means by which one is able to attend to the most important part of being a “grown up” – raising children, being an available husband and father. In a sense this film might be a sort of rite of passage story.

  3. David Goulet February 14, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    “A rite of passage story” — that’s a brilliant observation, Nick. I wonder with our increasingly Peter Pan pop culture what will pass as a rite of passage in another decade? Junior finally moves out of the house at age 40, Becky gets married at 45.

    I’m reminded how Alexander the Great had conquered his world at age 28. Today he’d still be doing sprink break in Tijuana.

  4. Nick February 17, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    Great, David! Even the Beatles knew that the girl in “She’s Leaving Home” had to LEAVE home. And consider the Beatles themselves – by the time they were 30, they’d formed, “conquered the world,” and broken up. 🙂

Leave a Reply