Movie Name: Kramer vs. Kramer
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Release Date(s): December 19, 1979
MPAA Rating: PG
On one of the best days of his professional life, Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) finds his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) has dropped a bomb on him…she’s leaving him and their child Billy (Justin Henry) to find herself. Now, Ted is trying to manage his rising high stakes career while managing his son for the first time. When Joanna returns to claim Billy, Ted finds himself in court fighting for his son.
Directed by Robert Benton, Kramer vs. Kramer is a drama based on the 1977 novel by Avery Corman. The movie received praise from critics and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Hoffman), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress (Streep) with nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Justin Henry), Best Supporting Actress (Jane Alexander), Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.
Kramer vs. Kramer was a film of its time. The movie showed the changing roles of parents in the movie. If you watch Kramer vs. Kramer now, it seems oddly tame and mundane…with a stellar cast and great acting.
It is interesting to look at Kramer vs. Kramer as a period piece. Women were still expected to take the children, and fathers were expected to pay the child support. This movie set to challenge this with the mother deciding to skip out (feeling her life was robbed) and the father having to pick up her duties. I like that Ted is seen as a handicap at work for trying to keep his son and that is looked down upon in the trial. The script does a great job balancing the who is right and who is wrong aspect of the story with the rather ironic concept that Streep wins because she’s the mother but then chooses to give Billy up. This type of story is barely the fodder of TV movies today, but when it was made, it was something new and different.
The movie succeeds by casting a great cast. Hoffman does a great job not making his character unlikable despite his drive and really lets the viewers see his frustration in the situation. Likewise, you feel a bit sorry for Streep who never was allowed to have a life as Ted’s wife (and she’s branded a failure for the marriage break-up). Ironically, Kate Jackson was meant to play the role, but had to back out due to Charlie’s Angels (Streep was cast as the JoBeth Williams role of Ted’s one-night stand). Jane Alexander has an interesting role as the platonic friend of Hoffman and Justin Henry became the youngest actor to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor with his portrayal of Streep and Hoffman’s son.
With the standard “drama” label, there isn’t much this movie does special. It is important to point out that the movie is PG, but it pre-revised PG. There is a bit of a surprising scene involving JoBeth Williams that while providing humor might leave parents of younger viewers covering their eyes with some after sex nudity that would never make it in a PG or PG-13 movie today.
Kramer vs. Kramer is a good movie, but it isn’t one of those pictures that wows you. The movie does not necessarily go where you expect it to go, but it also doesn’t seem to push the envelope much by today’s standards. Of course as a jaded modern movie viewer, we’d expect some sort of suicide pact or a shock ending to the court case. Instead, you get a nice solid drama with strong acting that really mimics real life…something that is kind of rare today.
[easyazon-block align=”center” asin=”B001MVYUQ6″ locale=”us”]