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"Kramer vs. Kramer" is a terrific drama about an unhappy woman who walks out
on her husband and young son. The husband now has to take up the
responsibilities of taking care of the boy. As he does, they get to know
each other better. But then, the mother and wife returns, and she wants
custody of the boy. "Kramer vs. Kramer" has lots of drama with some
wonderful bits of comedy thrown in for good measure. Dustin Hoffman won his
first Best Actor Oscar for his brilliant performance here. Most people say
his performance in "Rainman", which won him his second Oscar, is his best.
He was great in that film, but I disagree that its his best. In my opinion,
the best performance of Hoffman's career is in this movie. Scene after scene
shows us why Hoffman is one of the best American actors working today. He's
also funny at times. Also giving a terrific performance is Meryl Streep, who
wasn't as well known when she made this film like she is today. Streep, like
Hoffman, also won her first Oscar (for Best Supporting Actress) for her work
in "Kramer vs. Kramer" as the wife and mother who tries to find herself
after walking out on her family. Justin Henry, who was only 8 years old when
the film came out, is wonderful as Hoffman and Streep's son. He won an Oscar
nomination for his role here, and still to this day he is the youngest
performer to receive an Oscar nomination in a competitive category (Best
Supporting Actor). Jane Alexander is also fine as a conserned family friend.
She too got an Oscar nomination (for Supporting Actress where she lost to
co-star Streep). "Kramer vs. Kramer" is a great film from start to finish.
Writer-director Robert Benton has made a film that's absolutely
**** (out of four)
This outstanding film has about the best acting that you'll ever see, and that alone makes this a must-see. The entire cast is excellent, but then again, it had to be in order to keep up with Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. It didn't take me long to get hooked on this film, and aside from a courtroom scene that is merely good, this is top-notch entertainment. This is a rare film that actually deserved all the Oscar recognition that it received. See it for yourself and you will definitely not be disappointed.
I consider myself lucky that I got to view a wonderful movie with two
marvelous actors. "Kramer vs. Kramer" was great to me because I think I
could relate to it.
Unfortunately, my parents are divorced. Even though I was older than Billy in this movie, I felt his pain and confusion. Having two parents who you thought were happy and end up hating each other is the worst. Through this movie, actually, I think it made me realize that my parents are people too, and they had as just much pain as my sister and I had.
Back to the movie, this was a good one. Yes, it's dated and Meryl and Dustin are very young. But I would recommend this for a lot of people, because I think most can relate in some way. There are funny, sad, happy, and relieving moments that are carried away terrificly by these great actors. It's a good movie and deserves more credit than a 7.5.
After a decade of turbulent unrest, American movies began to switch
gears and turn their cameras away from war-torn battlefields, political
corruption, and general social unease to the more intimate world of
family dysfunction. The toll the selfish Baby Boomers began to take on
the American family as they grew up and had kids of their own was
making itself felt.
"Kramer vs. Kramer" is one of the first of these dysfunctional family dramas that would continue to be so popular throughout the 1980s, and it's one of the best. It gets a rather bum rap now, because it's known as the film that beat "Apocalypse Now" for the 1979 Best Picture Academy Award, but comparing these two films is like comparing a banana to a marinated chicken breast: they're not remotely the same, but can't we enjoy them both? Director/writer Robert Benton doesn't try to do anything fancy with his movie; its strength lies in its performances, those of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep particularly, playing a divorced couple fighting childishly and selfishly over their son. The courtroom scene in which they duke it out for custody, and in which each is forced to hurt the other in terrible ways, is devastating, and feels authentic. The movie doesn't present Hoffman's solid dad as a hero, or Streep's straying mom as a villain. They're neither good or bad as people -- they're simply bad at being married.
The film is tear-jerky at the finale, but not in a manipulative way. It earns its right to elicit sobs.
Robert Benton's Kramer vs. Kramer is a character based story just like
his "Human Stain(2003)" and "The Late Show(1977)". 2 of his 3 Oscar
awards are belong to Kramer vs. Kramer, for his success on directing
and writing; thus making his film bringing a real life drama with the
real life characters so close to us. It's all about ordinary people
with our problems. What's different and catchy about Robert Benton's
film-making was here we are not trying to put ourselves in the actors'
shoes, the actors are trying to put themselves in our shoes.
The story is about the Kramer family which is broken, father and mother are separated, and they have to fight for their son's custody in court against each other. After his wife walks out on him, Ted Kramer's life completely turns upside down. He has to take care of his son, Billy; but at the same time he's very busy with his position in an advertising company. Soon, he loses his job; Billy has an accident; his wife wants Billy to live with her. Against all the problems Ted is facing, he always fought with his heart. Ted's a very emotional and sensitive man, but a strong person at the same time.
Ted Kramer character was a new model for Dustin Hoffman. But since the late 1950s' Elia Kazan's pioneer approach of modern drama making on film, with the basic instalment of the leading actor into a conflict, Ted Kramer's strong character raised Dustin Hoffman's acting to become a legend ; just like it did to Marlon Brando, Sylvester Stallone, Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson with 1970s'.
Something more about the movie; the linear cut has been 43 minutes longer than the theatrical release. Most of this cut has included Meryl Streep's deleted scenes. Also Meryl Streep has been originally cast in the role of Ted's one night stand, eventually played by second supporting actress Jobeth Williams. Meryl Streep's role as Joanna Kramer has been primarily offered to Kate Jackson; but due to her contract rules with the TV-series Charlie's Angels, she hasn't been able to accept this role. Joanna Kramer character has been designed to be the leading actress and subject to have more scenes, before director Benton making the last decision of the plot's focus point.
Both Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman today have splendid fame on movie career, and Kramer vs. Kramer was an important milestone for both of their careers. Dustin Hoffman's Oscar speech winning the best actor at the 1979 Academy Awards ceremony is one of the best Oscar speeches of all Academy Awards history; like the movie Hoffman's Oscar speech is also available to watch on Youtube.
Although credit should have been given to Dr. Seuess for stealing the story-line of "Horton Hatches The Egg", this was a fine film. It touched both the emotions and the intellect. Due especially to the incredible performance of seven year old Justin Henry and a script that was sympathetic to each character (and each one's predicament), the thought provoking elements linger long after the tear jerking ones are over. Overall, superior acting from a solid cast, excellent directing, and a very powerful script. The right touches of humor throughout help keep a "heavy" subject from becoming tedious or difficult to sit through. Lastly, this film stands the test of time and seems in no way dated, decades after it was released.
Kramer vs. Kramer is one film to hold on too and not forget. It isn't
one of the most popular films ever made and is certainly one of the
weakest best picture films, but it does not mean it still isn't
important. I thought the movie was well done and made you just want to
watch more and more of it. The performances were the best positive for
the film and Dustin Hoffman played one of his best roles he's ever done
as the lonely workaholic who has to take care of his son, as his wife
separates from him. Billy, who is Hoffman's son, played another great
performance along with Meryl Streep, playing the depressed mother of
Billy. Kramer vs. Kramer is not one of the greatest films and is not a
perfect 10, but it succeeds in making the film worth watching and worth
caring about it. Certainly, one of Hoffman's best films he's ever done.
I highly recommend it.
Hedeen's Outlook: 9/10 ***+ A-
"Kramer vs. Kramer" is probably the weakest winner of the Best Picture Oscar in the 1970s, but that does not mean that this it is not an excellent film that more than delivers. The film deals with a career man (Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman) who must rear his young son (Justin Henry, the youngest Oscar-nominee ever) after his wife (Oscar-winner Meryl Streep) leaves them with no real explanation. What follows is a heart-touching story about the man who finally learns what it means to be a father and a boy who learns who his father really is. Of course the film becomes heart-rending later as Streep returns after a long absence and wants to take Hoffman to court for custody of their son. "Kramer vs. Kramer" then becomes an intense courtroom drama that has few equals. Robert Benton's Oscar-winning direction and screenplay could have fallen flat several times, but he stays focused throughout and his plan works to near perfection. Of course the aforementioned performances and the performance of Oscar-nominee Jane Alexander are the primary calling cards of the film. Hoffman and Streep are at the top of their careers here and their acts are electric and thunderous from start to finish. All in all, "Kramer vs. Kramer" could have been unintentionally funny or even down-right dull, but the film is so well-made and acted that it succeeds with stunning results. 5 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a good movie, with excellent performances by Dustin Hoffman, Jane
Alexander, and the kid Justin Henry. However, unfortunately Meryl Streep's
role isn't really very developed and we don't get to understand very well
what is going on with her.
The film shows the agony of people going through a contested Court battle over custody. Although the agony is very real for those going through this, it needs to be noted that the more modern approach to a custody dispute is to require the parties to mediate their differences. By stressing the concept of "parenting time", in which time with the child is divided in a reasonable way between the two parents, as opposed to the "either-or" choice depicted in the film, differences can often be worked out in mediation by simply working out a schedule of who has the child when.
SPOILER COMING UP Another problem with the film is the screenwriter's assumption that the mother should receive custody unless she is unfit. This has not been the law for many, many years, if indeed it ever was. In this situation, where the child had bonded so wonderfully with his father, it seems doubtful that even the older Judges would award custody to the mother. Judges will usually continue whatever the status quo arrangement has been, if it is working, as it was in the film. Certainly the mother would not be permitted to come in and litigate custody, simply because she has changed her mind. Rather, it is necessary to show a "change of circumstances" to even get into Court.
The story is told from a decidedly upper middle class viewpoint. Both parents have good jobs, and the film seems to accept the idea that a person's worth as a parent is determined by how good of a job he or she has. During the Court hearing, when the mother says how much she is making, the camera shows the father's surprised reaction. The mother's attorney is eliciting this information to show how she has "gotten herself together", and therefore should now be granted custody. And when the father loses his job right before the hearing, he desperately finds another one because he "knows" he has no chance at custody unless he has a good job. And then during the hearing, the mother's attorney derides him for making less than he had previously made.
I submit that this viewpoint is just plain false. One's worth as a parent does not depend on how much money one makes! Indeed, it could be argued that the reverse is actually true, in that the less time spent on making a living, the more time and energy one has to devote to the care of one's children. The issue is not who has the best job, but who can best care for the children. Who is the most willing to go the parent-teacher conferences, take the children to the doctor, read to them a story at bedtime, etc.
Despite the various flaws in the film, it still rates an 8 out of 10 due to the very strong performances, and the wonderful way it shows the developing relationship between a father and his son.
One word that comes to mind when describing 'Kramer vs. Kramer' is terrific. Benton's direction and screenplay are solid but what also seems to have worked very well was that he gave his actors the freedom to improvise and was open to their suggestions. Not once, does the film lose focus (credit goes to the fine editing department). It's very much a character driven drama with fabulous acting. Perhaps, it's the freedom the actors had which makes their performances look more natural and their on screen interactions very real. I wonder how cathartic it was for the great Dustin Hoffman to play Ted Kramer as he himself was going through a rough divorce. A brilliant Meryl Streep too was still in the grieving process of having lost her loved one. The fabulous Jane Alexander seems to have a comfortable off screen interaction with her co-stars and she too did a lot of improvisation. The same can be said for child actor Justin Henry. The result is excellent performances by all four actors. The whimsical score (that comprises of famous numbers from composers like Vivaldi) beautifully adds to the mood. These days court room divorce dramas have become quite popular on TV but they lack the authenticity, humbleness and simplicity of 'Kramer vs Kramer'.
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