««KRAMER VS. KRAMERCast:Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Hebry, Jane Alexander, Howard Duff and George Coe. Screenplay by Robert Benton from Avery Corman’s novel. Produced by Stanley R. Jaffe. Direct-ed by Robert Benton. A Columbia Pic- ^tures release. Rated PG.DannFilm criticIf you plan to see only one film this season, make it “Kramer vs. Kramer.” And remember to bring plenty of Kleenex.It is a film of rare emotional insight, of painful images and of questions without answers. The emotional trau-Kramer is an advertising executive ught up in the world of self, the now-mous “Me Generation.” He works te, hooping it up with business associ-ps while Dushine his familv. beautifulma, the joys and the conflicts suffered Joanna (Streep) and little Billy (Justinby its two main characters, Ted and Henry), down on the list of priorities.Joanna Kramer, transcend film and become shared experiences with viewers who will find them hard to forget.Divorce has become a big topic for movies in the late 1970s. But unlike films of two years ago, which dealt with divorce from a woman’s perspec-PA1NFUL closeupJoanna at the beginning, we know she is distraught and preparing to leave her apartment. She waits patiently for Ted to come home, late as usual, then point-blank tells him she is leaving. Ted looks upon her outburst as an ex-Dression of some trivial dissatisfaction* tviv.*xw,r0990090 060______* • V V* t *• a m 4 . • • ... ' . _* ' *. ■ • * • • » • • am « lt;/ j* * • • • • • ** * M|iUU * • ....... • t • • . . ... •*••••■• . • , ... ' 1 .■ jtjfTm * a 4 Mm % • * .am.• a a a* • • • iv*v.V.m-1 ••••••lt;■•■'//#///__.* a m m m Jka • # m m 0 4 4W.W/vbetweentive, the latest stories emphasize the and is more interested in telling heropposite sex, a trend dubbed by Mademoiselle magazine “the unmarried man syndrome.”ALREADY THIS YEAR we’ve hadserio-comicyyabout his new promotion.Streep plays the scene with restrained agony. We feel that she is physically suffocating in her own home. After an uneasy trade-off ofStreep)Robertdivorce and family responsilibities film opens today at area theaters.withseek- phrases probably heard by most mar-ing out new relationships. We’ve also ried couples at least once, she breaks bathroom first, gets Dad up and while be inclined to make Joanna the heavy.been given Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” about a divorced, middle-aged television writer unable to maintain a relationship with anyone except a high school student.away from her husband, who is miffed because “she loused up one of the best days of my life.”Joanna vanishes. Ted and Billy waitDad hits the bathroom, little Billy is already doing his part to prepare breakfast. Dad adds the supplemental work and soon both are sitting at thefor her to return, but she doesn’t. Sud- table, Dad reading his newspaper, Bil-On a lesser level, “10” told the story denly the advertising executive isof a divorced 42-year-old juvenile del- faced with caring for a son whosebookbeeninquent chasing his sexual fantasy (in the form of Bo Derek) around thegrade level he doesn’t even know. The development of a touching new rela-thoseworld. Although mostly a story of a tionship becomes the story as Tederything without a word, are ones to be treasured. “Kramer vs. Kramer”is aman’s struggle with himself, the “Electric Horseman” (opening Friday) stars Robert Redford as a divorced rodeo champ who couldn’t shoulder his life and 7-year-old Henry is a seldom-struggles to maintain his career and to i a good father to his son.THE RAPPORT between HoffmanYet her character has changed enough during her absence from the screen we feel she wouldn’t be such a bad parent after all.It would have been much easier for both Benton and the actors if Ted and Joanna developed a strong hatred for each other. Battlelines could easily be drawn and the cases for taking custody of Billy could be written in black andsuperior piece of filmmaking that white. But that’s the easy way out. avoids preaching and pulling easy answers out of a screenwriter’s brain.and marriage at the same time.“KRAMER VS. KRAMER” fits into the “unmarried man” genre, but only technically, for it is essentially a drama of human feelings embodied by a man and his small son.Dustin Hoffman, easily the year’s strongest candidate to win the Oscarfor best actor, again displays his versatile talent, delivering not a portrayal of Ted Kramer, but the essence of a man we might know or live next door to.UNLIKE MOST other divorce films, e Kramer breakuD isn’t caused bvachieved magic on the screen, one which reflects true affection and a the ever-present extramarital affair,genuine father-son love. Under the su-nerb direction of Robert Benton (“TheThe problem is internal and deep, asAUDIENCE SYMPATHIES are inconstant flux by a story that refuses to assign blame to its characters. “Kramer” makes us sympathetic to both characters as if to tell us that it’s(“The we discover when Joanna returns 18 naive to expect a pleasant resolutionLate Show”), the slow change in their months later to take custody of her for such an unpleasant problem,relationship is established through son.small excerpts from their everyday lives separated by dramatic fades of the camera.The ensuing court battle between the Kramers, provides the saddest and most heart-wrenching vision of a mari- that has something to say.Barring a throwaway ending that doesn’t do the story justice, “Kramer vs. Kramer” is an important pictureInitially inept in their show of affec- tal breakup put on film. Both parentstion and skills in the kitchen, both geniunely want the boy. but it’s obviousmales soon have their rituals down pat. only one can have him.Who knows? Maybe some workaholic spouses will see “Kramer” and avert a similar disaster in their families — ifIn the morning, little Billy hits theBecause of her desertion, we might they’ll take time to go to a movie.