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In what some call one of the most perplexing decisions made by the
Academy when Kramer vs. Kramer was awarded the 1979 best picture Oscar
over Apocalypse Now, after viewing the said film; I can say that for
whatever reasons they had, they had them on good grounds. The reason I
can't say if they're right or not is because I haven't seen Apocalypse
Kramer vs. Kramer is a character study it's a raw character study of two people called Ted Kramer (A then 42 year old Dustin Hoffman) and Billy Kramer (A then 8 year old Justin Henry) who are living together because Joanna Kramer (A then 30 year old Meryl Streep) walked out on them. What's good is that this happens really early on in the film so there's no need for build up towards Joanna and we don't immediately know the reasons for her walk out which means that after five minutes of her and an hour and half of the other two; who do you think the audience are going to make the link with and, ultimately, root for.
To say that this film merely centres around two people living in a New York apartment is too-a premature statement. The film slowly builds up, biding its time and brilliantly placing its scenes of a different nature as the fist hour to an hour and a half goes by. The way in which Ted Kramer tries to balance his work and the time he spends with Billy proves to us how busy he really was when there were three in the household. Also, the way in which things get more and more desperate as the film wares on is heart and gut wrenching. Sorry if this does sound like a spoiler but Ted's attempts to merely 'blag' his life as he sits on top of a brilliant portfolio and a big promotion business-wise yet home comes-a-calling whenever things look good is simple yet truly gripping film-making. Not only this but we start off with a simple thing like making breakfast and his attempts to do that right just the way Billy likes it; it doesn't go a hundred per cent correct but it'll do. However, on the scale of things that was just one breakfast the morning after Joanne left, now think of the bigger more important things.
What's also clever about Kramer vs. Kramer are the little things that perhaps go unnoticed. The fact that Joanne is made to look like the antagonist yet barely features for the first third. When she does eventually turn up, the film is turned on its head and the routine we've got used to suddenly flips over and goes down a different route. This just places the audience more and more in Ted's shoes and it's fantastic when you think about it. Also, the fact that one of my favourite sequences involves a long tracking shot early in the morning as Billy walks into the kitchen, notices Ted reading a newspaper, sits down and as the camera reaches its destination; it pauses expecting something to be said but nothing happens and we cut away to the next scene fantastic stuff.
With Ted's desperation getting more and more intense as his job and life begin to crumble around him as well as Joanne's re-emergence from the woodwork and her demands it can be looked at as tragic yet entertaining, wholly depending on whether you've been through a divorce or not only this will only further place you in the shoes of Ted.
Kramer vs. Kramer is a well directed, well acted and well shot film that plays with film conventions and successfully plays with the audience as well definitely recommended if you're after something smart.
This is a story of a family. The movie begins with the wife, Joanna,
leaving her husband, Ted in charge of their seven year-old son, Billy.
Throughout the next year, Ted and Billy learn to live with each other.
At first, this young boy cannot comprehend that his mother has left
him. Ted continues to work hard at being the parent his son needs.
Eventually, both have all but forgotten their mom. They live in perfect
harmony now. Then the mother reappears. She hasn't been present for
almost a year and a half, and now she is wanting custody of this
confused little boy. And the court seems to side with her.
It takes a while afterward for the true meaning of this movie to settle in. It's a beautiful story and a great cast, but it also touches on a very serious issue. The court system of today favors women over men again and again and again. This movie shows the disastrous and ridiculous effects of that. That's why it's such an important film.
The cast really is brilliant here. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep both give Oscar-deserving and winning performances. Hoffman is exquisite as the struggling and loving father Ted. Ms. Streep gives a superb performance as the somewhat confused mother. You'll hate her sometimes and truly feel for her others, but she acts beautifully. The little boy, Justin Henry, is also excellent.
Watch this movie. It won five Oscars and deserved them all. The cast is great, the story beautiful, and the message important. 7/10 stars!
This is a wonderful movie about the trials and tribulations of divorce
and its often shattering effect on a broken family with their young son
caught up in a bitter custody battle. The greatest scenes are the
beautifully moving interactions with Dustin Hoffman and his adoring
6-year son, played magnificently by young Justin Henry. The
performances are very realistic. The directing is face-paced, and no
one at any time seems superficial in their roles. Anyone who has gone
through, or is going through a divorce, or even a bad marriage, will
find some great meaning and insight from this movie.
The only drawback is Meryl Streep. I always believed that she was an over-rated actress. But in Kramer vs. Kramer, there is something missing from her character that I think creates an aloofness in the scenes that she is in. I could tell from her body language very early on in this movie that she had strong emotional problems. Throughout the film, she seems so quiet and unsure of herself that you begin to feel even MORE sensitivity for the real troubling issues facing Ted (Dustin) and Billy. (Justin) Their scenes together are SOOOO well done that you really see them as a father and son and not actors. There is also no sappiness or soap opera dialog to muddle this fine story. I must also give credit to director Robert Benton for a movie that pulls at the heart strings many times.
This is a very fine film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
KRAMER VS KRAMER won five Oscars, including Best Picture of 1979. This intense and deeply moving family drama follows an advertising executive whose life is turned upside down when his wife of eight years, walks out on him, leaving him to care for his son and build a relationship with him he never had. Robert Benton's incisive screenplay presents us flawed, but real human beings with hearts, souls, and brains. For instance, in the scene where Joanna announces to Ted she's leaving him, she doesn't just storm out the door...she gives him the keys, her credit cards, the dry cleaning ticket, tells him which bills have been paid, and informs him she has withdrawn from their bank account the same amount of money she had when they were married, no more. This decision to leave was not a whim...it was thought about and Joanna felt, with no other option than to leave, if she was leaving she was going to do it properly...and with no specific plan in mind, she did not think it right to take Billy. Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for his Ted Kramer, a man so obsessed with bringing home the bacon, he had no clue that his life at home was crumbling into pieces. Meryl Streep also won an Oscar playing Joanna, the unhappy wife who we feel sympathy for in the beginning of the film but that all changes when she returns for her son. Hoffman is at the top of his form here. I always tear up during the scene where he tries to explain to Billy (Justin Henry, Oscar nominee) why his mom left and he does it all in a stage whisper or when he meets Joanna upon her return and slams her drink into a wall (a Hoffman moment not in the script that Streep was not told about in order to get a natural reaction). Justin Henry hits all the right notes as Billy, the confused little boy who doesn't know why his mom is gone and doesn't know how to communicate with his father. Jane Alexander also got an Oscar nod as Ted and Joanna's neighbor, Margaret, who has switched allegiances by the film's conclusion. This is an intense family drama but there are laughs to be had here too...Billy and the chocolate chip ice cream...Billy pouting because Ted is late picking him for a party...Billy catching his dad's one night stand (JoBeth Williams) on her way to the bathroom stark naked, but it's the moments of human drama you remember...Ted running through Manhattan with Billy in his arms to get to the emergency room after BIlly falls off the jungle gym...Ted getting fired right before beginning his custody battle and instead of making a scene, he tells the guy in a whisper..."Shame on you." And of course, the finale where Joanna tells Ted she's not taking Billy, which I found a little hard to swallow. Why would she go to all that trouble of suing for custody and then just change her mind? But this is a small quibble regarding a wonderful movie, masterfully directed by Robert Benton and flawlessly performed by a top-notch cast. A must-see.
Inexplicably, I watched this movie for the very first time just a couple of
days ago, and understood from the very beginning what all the fuss is about.
This movie held my attention from beginning to end, and ran me through the
whole range of emotions (and might have helped me discover a few I never
Dustin Hoffman absolutely shines as Ted Kramer. He is absolutely convincing as a man having to juggle at least three different challenges in life: jilted husband, workaholic ad executive and loving father. Meryl Streep as Joanna Kramer was less central to the movie simply because Joanna was absent for a good part of it, but when she was on screen she gave Hoffman a run for his money. The true standout, though, (in my opinion) had to be young Justin Henry as Billy Kramer. Children are always the innocent victim in a marital breakdown, and Justin seemed absolutely natural and completely believable in this role as he deals with the conflicting emotions around his mother and his adjustment to life with Dad, only then to have the confusion around why he should have to leave his Dad when it was his Mom who walked out on him. Young Justin didn't seem to miss a beat in this very difficult role.
All in all, this is an excellent, Oscar-worthy movie whose only weak point was what I thought to be a truly disappointing decision to go for the sappy and happy ending, which was totally unrealistic considering the destructive custody battle Ted and Joanna had gone through. But there's not much else to complain about here.
Sometimes, simplicity wins over the rest. In a book, a simple story might be
favored. In a meal, something simple may be what you crave. But in a movie,
most people do not want simplicity. They want the whole shebang. They want a
spectacle. Mostly, they aren't right. Simplicity has made many movies.
Kramer Vs. Kramer is one of them.
Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is an overworked advertising executive. Ted is married and has a 7 year old son, Billy (Justin Henry). One day, Ted arrives home and gets instantly on the phone. This is the time Joanna (Meryl Streep) chooses to tell Ted that she is leaving him and that she is not taking their son with her. Ted is not only sad, but also alarmed. She was the one who raised the kid. He doesn't have a clue about how to do it. Joanna leaves and the next morning, Ted tries to explain to Billy how his mother has left. Billy, at first, wants everything to be done by his mother. He cries and throws fits. But, gradually, they learn to cooperate and be like father and son. That is, until Joanna comes back and asks for custody of Billy.
The movie wallows in simplicity. The plot doesn't seem like much, but it works. More than a few times, I could relate to what was happening. (No, my parents weren't divorced.) For instance, when Billy falls off the monkey bars and busts his face, Ted takes him to the emergency. When I was around 7 or 8 years old, my younger brother also busted his face (in a different way) and my father's reaction was quite similar to Dustin Hoffman's. The scenes, while mundane in the sense that they happen to you in you everyday life, are effective and never boring.
The acting, as I pointed out above, is suprisingly natural. Dustin Hoffman, who won an Oscar for his solid work, gives a performance that is very true to life. His work isn't very intense, but low-key. He is just playing a regular guy', but I think it takes much more talent to play someone like that than to play a broader role like the guy from The Graduate (not that I'm saying he was bad in that movie). Justin Henry shows maturity and control for a little kid, and he isn't the least bit obnoxious. He captured the innocence very well. My favorite scene is when Hoffman sleeps with a woman, Phyllis (JoBeth Williams) and she gets up to go to the washroom. She is naked. She walks down the hall and bumps into little Billy, who seems hardly fazed. He then innocently asks her if she likes fried chicken. It's a well-written and touching scene. Meryl Streep plays the wife admirably, but she has too little screen time and therefore is stuck in a supporting part.
As a whole, the movie works admirably well. However, there are some small quibbles, the biggest being the ending. It comes too fast and leaves too many loose ends. Sure, it's touching, but I want more of the movie! Clocking in at barely over an hour and a half, Kramer Vs. Kramer is quite short. I wish there was more material. Yet, Kramer Vs. Kramer remains a fine film. 9/10
This movie always works for me, no matter how many times I see it. I often
wonder how they took such a simple story and made it work so well. The
answer would probably lie in the acting of all the cast, even the child
actor Justin Henry. The chemisty between he and Dustin Hoffman made for
very memorable scenes, and this is why we get drawn into what seems to be
often told tale. Some of the best scenes for me are those that involve no
dialogue, just action. We see them getting up in the morning, walking to
bathroom and into the kitchen. They co-operate without speaking; they get
donuts for breakfast, milk, glasses, Hoffman reads the newspaper and Henry
reads a comic book. Again, later, the day Henry is set to leave, they
quietly make french toast, they do it like a well oiled machine unlike a
previous scene where the impression was they didn't know too much about
other for a father and son, and quite obviously it was rare for Hoffman to
be in the kitchen doing "mom" duties. We see them grow together throughout
the movie, and this is the big attraction for me.
There is no padding in this movie, each scene is needed and tells what it is supposed to. Unlike other movies of this theme, you never cringe, and you get a sense of these people and what they're about. The story is painfully honest, and superbly done.
A beautifully done film rich with symbolisms that could be invisible to the unaware eyes. The elevator scene for example symbolizes two main themes of the movie, separation and emotion. One could notice that the first scene showed Joanna going down the elevator, symbolizing her feeling of depression, likewise Ted goes down the elevator after the last trial scene - knowing that he probably lost the case. On the other hand, Ted brings Billy to see his new office and it was another elevator trip but this time going up, showing the joy and excitement both have. Lastly, one could notice that both Ted and Joanna never are together in one elevator - with this we can foresee that they will never get together even in the end. The symbolism of separation with the use of the elevator shows this even though we never find out in the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As I said in my review of RAIN MAN, a family drama doesn't have to be an epic (like fellow nominee APOCALYPSE NOW) to win Best Picture. (Coincidentally, Hoffman appeared in both films.) KRAMER VS. KRAMER isn't just about divorce, it's also about a father trying to connect with his son and juggle a successful career at the same time. This is something every mother, father, and even child can relate to. Dustin Hoffman is Ted Kramer, said father in this wrenching film. Meryl Streep is Joanna Kramer, the other half of the title. Jane Alexander is their friend and neighbor, Margaret Phelps. And 8-year-old Justin Henry is Ted and Joanna's son, Billy. Along for the emotional ride is Howard Duff, as Ted's lawyer John Shaunessy, and JoBeth Williams as Ted's bed partner and secretary, Phyllis. Based on the 1977 novel by Avery Corman, KRAMER VS. KRAMER deals with the effects of abandonment (this time by a mother!), divorce, estrangement, and reconnection. It is a sobering look at a successful executive who's life couldn't be better until his wife leaves him due to unsatisfaction and marital unhappiness. His attempt to connect with his little son, the boy's mother returning after "finding herself," and ending in a bittering custody battle. What can you say about this film? I'll tell you! It was something that I, a very stubborn young man, could understand and relate to. I, myself, was a child of a broken home. My parents were Ted and Joanna; and I was Billy! This film deserves every accolade it got! Anyone, who disagrees has either no heart or no common sense! (But, you're entitled to your opinion.) Winner of 5 Academy Awards including: Best Picture - Stanley R. Jaffe, producer; Best Director and Adapted Screenplay - Robert Benton; Best Actor - Dustin Hoffman; and Best Supporting Actress - Meryl Streep; along with nominations for Justin Henry for Best Supporting Actor and Jane Alexander also as Best Supporting Actress. This is a film that inspires and unlifts the spirit just by telling a realistic story without explosions, special effects, or violence. Though I did enjoy APOCALYPSE NOW, I still think KRAMER VS. KRAMER deserved to win. Why? Because it made me cry, something that is very difficult to do! That scene where Ted and Billy say their supposed good-byes (Joanna wins, of course; the mother always wins!) tore me to shreds. Incredible!
Kramer Vs. Kramer is a near-heartening drama about shocking, drastic
augmentations of the two subjects of a failed married couple. Meryl
Streep, in the throes of her trademark maternal sensitivity, plays an
unhappy stay-at-home mother who feels confined to such a role and
within the first five minutes of the film leaves her inattentive
husband, in a fantastic performance by Dustin Hoffman, to find another
role for herself. Hoffman is dumbstruck, having absolutely no idea what
to do with himself, having taken so much for granted that he doesn't
know the first thing about getting his son to school in the morning.
Hoffman seamlessly characterizes this husband as such a juicy load of setbacks. He is restless, relentless and impatient, but even though the positive side to those three adjectives should include just the opposite, he is unremittingly fixated on whatever he turns his head to. He's been focused on his career in advertising, and when he is left to raise his son Billy all by himself, chaos ushers in immediately. He's the one throwing temper tantrums and quitting angrily halfway through an activity. After awhile, as he befriends his neighbor and Joanna's former friend, played by sexy Jane Alexander, Hoffman cools his jets enough to understand why his wife left. In the meantime, his boundless energy redirects towards raising Billy and he loses his job.
The custody battle of the title is a brilliantly grey circumstance. Even if the ending is a little unmotivated, subjectified for the audience, the last line and the last shot still have that witty screen writing touch that seemed to diminish after the magical 1970s.
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