Picks and Pans Review: Two Unwed Women Strode Toward Freedom but Somehow Got Lost

updated 03/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Finally! Hollywood heroines, fed up with the male-dominated screen, seemed to be staking out their own modern turf in two hit movies of the late 70s. In An Unmarried Woman, Jill Clayburgh, dumped by her husband after 16 years, learns to revel in singlehood. In Kramer vs. Kramer, Meryl Streep does the dumping: She abandons Dustin Hoffman and son Justin Henry to find herself—in California, in therapy—before returning to Manhattan for a nasty custody battle. "Those movies were important at the time," concedes Betty Friedan, 73, author of the landmark Feminine Mystique. But she finds them wanting today. "In Woman," she says, "they show that Clayburgh has been asleep, and she's got to be a person." But why, she asks, does the film then throw her into a heavy relationship with Alan Bates? And in Kramer, she notes, "Hoffman became a caring father, but Streep was unsympathetic." We need to see men and women as equal partners, Friedan argues, "but it's hard to think of movies that do that. When I talk to people, they think of movies of 45 years ago! Hepburn and Tracy!"

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