KRAMER VS. KRAMER (1979) 

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Dustin Hoffman
Meryl Streep
Justin Henry
Jane Alexander
JoBeth Williams

Robert Benton



Time: 105 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama/Courtroom

Won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Hoffman), Supporting Actress (Streep), Director, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Nominations for Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Supporting Actor (Henry) and Supporting Actress (Alexander).

KRAMER VS. KRAMER is a film everyone should see. I only recently watched it for the first time and I was amazed at how relevant it still is. More than a film about divorce, this is a story about a man who falls in love with his son. He realizes that their relationship is the most important thing in his life. By finding joy in fatherhood, he becomes more than just the family provider. Hoffman and Henry are wonderful together as two guys trying to deal with a life without their wife and mother. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the film and one that you will make you weep with envy.

The film opens with Ted (Hoffman) landing the major ad account he's been working to close for months. When he arrives home, he's so excited about the news he doesn't notice his wife Joanna (Streep) has a bag packed and ready by the door. She interrupts him, crushing his celebration with news of her own. She's leaving him. Their marriage destroyed her identity, leaving her no other option, other than suicide, to end her pain. Ted goes ballistic. How could she ruin the best day of his life? She can't walk out now, when everything is finally coming together. Not only is she leaving, she's not taking their son Billy (Henry) with her. Ted will just have to deal with it.

He spends all night trying to finish a presentation and worrying about his future. What he doesn't think about is how he's going to juggle his job and his new responsibility – being a full-time parent. Their first father/son breakfast is pretty much a disaster – Ted doesn't do things the way "Mommy" does – but things eventually smooth out once it becomes clear to both man and child that "Mommy" is not coming back. Juggling his new account and taking care of Billy becomes increasingly more difficult as Ted begins to realize the immense emotional and physical effort it takes to raise a child. He also finds that he enjoys it. His work becomes a second priority, which is just not acceptable to his boss.

"I'm not taking him with me. I'm no good for him. I'm terrible with him. I have no patience. He's better off without me."

With his professional life in shambles, Ted is faced with another challenge. Joanna returns and demands custody of Billy. Though it hasn't been a smooth ride, losing his son is not an option. He puts all his energy into getting his life together, so he at least has a fighting chance. Once the trial begins, both sides use whatever methods available to paint the other in a bad light. Ted's lawyer makes Joanna look like a complete flake who's incapable of caring for herself never mind a child. Joanna's lawyer paints Ted out to be an incompetent father who can't even hold a decent job. In the end, the judge awards custody to the mother, which is no real surprise to anybody. However, Joanna realizes that she can't rip her son from the only home he's ever known and from a father who's the most important person in his life.

KRAMER VS. KRAMER is an intense family drama that deserves every award it received. Hoffman, Streep and Henry are amazing. Henry gives one of the most endearing, well-rounded and natural performances I have ever seen from a child actor. Though her role is small, Streep is heartbreaking as a woman who feels she has no other choice. You truly feel her pain and desperation. Hoffman has the choice role and he makes the most of every moment. His character becomes a completely different and better human being during the course of the film. It's rare to see such a layered, honest, well-developed character. The success of this film lies on the actors shoulders and a script that's fairly devoid of sentimentality. The topic has Movie of the Week written all over it, but never sinks to that sickeningly, over-emotional level. If you want to see a well-acted, well-crafted, intelligent film about what it's truly like to be a parent, seek this one out.

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