this is a film that is ripe for a trite, over-blown treatment, but avoids doing it; and i think this is a credit primarily to the direction and acting (as it usually is). hoffman, of course, is quite extraordinary in a rather tough role. his character begins as an almost vapid businessman and evolves into an inspiring human being with his priorities in the right place. conversely, streep begins as a sympathetic character, but devolves into what almost becomes a psychotic villain. i’m not sure if this was the intention, or if it was just an oddly angled performance, but streep’s character came off as quite unstable. i think the film would have been better served if her character was played a little more straight, but, really, it’s only a minor point overall.
details within the frame were well handled by benton. for example, a simple static shot of hoffman taking his son to the bathroom is enhanced not only by the camera’s distance and position (at the end of a hallway), but also by the placement of a small picture of streep on a table in the foreground. details in the direction like this make for a more realistic and poignant film. i think the decision to tell the story from hoffman’s point of view is the easiest to second-guess. since the upshot of the film is supposed to be that the child suffers the most, it might have made more sense to tell the story from his point of view. telling it from hoffman’s point of view demonizes streep and neglects most of what happened before the divorce.