Kramer vs. Kramer

"Excellent"

Kramer vs. Kramer Review


Back in the late '70s, a wave of divorce swept across America, perhaps the first big mainstream reflection of the women's lib movement that had blossomed a few years earlier. All my friends' parents seemed to break up, and so did Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer, a zeitgeisty melodrama that fits right in with all the Upper East Side Woody Allen flicks of that era, only with lawyers instead of laughs. Showered with awards, including nine Oscar nominations and five wins, including Best Picture, it remains one of the most compelling films of the decade, even if time has tarnished a bit of its sheen.

Hard-driving and oblivious ad exec Ted Kramer (Hoffman, more jittery than usual) is blindsided when his alarmingly fragile wife Joanna suddenly abandons him and their six-year old son Billy (Justin Henry), claiming that she needs to go to California to, you know, "find herself." Clearly a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, she hands over the keys, the credit cards, and the dry-cleaning tickets and disappears, leaving Ted to answer Billy's question: "Where's Mommy?"

Totally unprepared to be a single dad, Ted makes a fine mess of things, terrifying his traumatized son even when he attempts something as simple as making French toast. He eventually loses his job when he can't get his act together. As time passes, however, Ted and Billy start to bond, and Ted can start to visualize a happy future. Along the way, sensible neighbor Margaret (Jane Alexander) observes and sympathizes.

But there's still the matter of the legal proceedings to attend to, and Ted hires a tough, red-faced attorney named Shaunessy (Howard Duff) to represent him. It isn't pretty because once the battle for custody begins, both sides bend the truth and cast false aspersions upon each other in order to improve their chances of winning. It's ugly stuff, some of the most cringe-worthy courtroom emoting of all time (and I mean that in a good way).

An actor's film, Kramer vs. Kramer delivered Oscars to both Hoffman and Streep, not to mention nominations for both young Justin Henry, just eight at the time, and Jane Alexander. In fact, this is the movie that made Streep a star. Her Joanna is both sympathetic and terrible, a monster who wins you over when she weeps. Hoffman has his detractors (including me, usually), but here he's better than ever, and having recently gone through his own divorce, he brings his own improvised dialogue to make his scenes really come alive. In one scene, he hurls a glass at a restaurant wall while arguing with Streep, and according to legend, he did so without warning her in advance. The resulting shock on her face is very real. But ask anyone what they really remember about the movie, and they'll say "that poor little boy." Henry is amazing, a master of improv who was so young that perhaps the secret to his success was that he didn't know he was in a movie. See this movie for the performances, and bring Kleenex.

Next time it's Cheerios.



Kramer vs. Kramer

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 19th December 1979

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Stanley R. Jaffe

Starring: as Ted Kramer, as Joanna Kramer, as Margaret Phelps, as Billy Kramer, Howard Duff as John Shaunessy, as Jim O'Connor, as Phyllis Bernard (as Jobeth Williams), Bill Moor as Gressen, as Judge Atkins, Jack Ramage as Spencer, Jess Osuna as Ackerman, Nicholas Hormann as Interviewer, Ellen Parker as Teacher, Shelby Brammer as Ted's Secretary, Carol Nadell as Mrs. Kline

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.