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Kramer Vs. Kramer

1979 motion picture starring Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Jane Alexander.

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"Sometimes Mommies and Daddies Fight Too"

  • Apr 13, 2009
  • by

Though movies can be great ways to view how people viewed the world in the past, where movies can falter in this is the "this movie was ahead of it's time" film. Mainly because, I feel, these movies tend to have more cracks in them then a later movie that fully understood the situation would. "Kramer vs. Kramer" is film that was released to wide approval during the second-wave feminism, where the meanings behind motherhood and fatherhood was changing. The movie revolves around Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman in an Oscar winning performance), a work-a-holic father who loves his job and his family. Though he loves his family he is unable to relate to his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep in an Oscar winning performance), who tells him one night that he is leaving him and their son Billy (Justin Henry in an Oscar nominated performance) to "find herself."

Ted is furious of course because he feels Joanna has abandoned her child. Joanna's friend Margaret (Jane Alexander in an Oscar nominated performance) tries to explain to Ted about how Joanna didn't feel like a real person anymore, but Ted won't hear of it. He's now stuck raising his son, a son who doesn't connect to him much. Though the movie has been remembered as a film that questioned the roles of society, the film is really a father and son bonding film, as a majority of the time is spent with Ted getting to know his son and take care of him. In the process he loses his job because he can't be at work all the time, and Ted starts to understand what his wife went through while they were married. Sympathy doesn't go very far though, as Joanna shows up again one day and wants her son back.

This begins the now famous courtroom trial where the courts are ultimately more willing to side with the mother, regardless how much better of a parent Ted is. Though praised at the time for being impartial to each side, years later prove that the movie is ultimately arguing in Ted's favor, as Joanna comes off as being irresponsible and mean. While Ted doesn't want the case to get to the point where little Billy is called to the stand, Joanna seems less concerned about that then winning custody. We also sympathize with Ted more because he had to change his lifestyle because he was forced to, where Joanna chose to leave, made him change his lifestyle for their son, and now wants the kid back. She comes off as being unfair. What's worse is that just because she's the mother she gets special priority from the courts.

Once you get around the politics of the film though what you get is, essentially, a wonderful drama about a father and son bonding. It's this bond that helps the movie work despite itself. The world has come a long way since this came out, and since then woman do just about everything men do, and because we are in that position we can looking at this movie and realize that it wasn't really as partisan as we initially thought it to be. Never-the-less, the good outweighs the bad, and it will remain an interesting film to study in film and social studies.

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Kevin T. Rodriguez ()
Ranked #127
Kevin T. Rodriguez is an aspiring film journalist. He's more comfortable typing a review then doing an on-camera appearance, but he loves doing the occasional rant. Whether it be on movies, eBay, or comics, … more
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About this movie


Kramer vs. Kramer is a 1979 courtroom drama film adapted by Robert Benton from the novel by Avery Corman, and directed by Benton. The film tells the story of a married couple's divorce and its impact on everyone involved, including the couple's young son. It received the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1979. Music for the film features New York guitarist Frederic Hand.

Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman), a workaholic advertising executive is just given his agency's biggest new account. After spending the night drinking and carousing with co-workers he returns home to find his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) in the process of leaving him.

Ted is left to raise their son Billy (Justin Henry) by himself. Ted and Billy resent each other as Ted no longer has time to carry his increased workload, and Billy misses the loss of love and attention he received from his mother. After many months of unrest, Ted and Billy begin cope with the situation and eventually grow to deeply love and care for one another.

Ted befriends his neighbor Margaret (Jane Alexander), who at the beginning had counseled Joanna to leave. Margaret is a fellow single parent and the two become kindred spirits. One day as the two sit in the park watching their children play, Billy falls off the jungle gym and severely cuts his face. Picking him up, Ted sprints several blocks through oncoming traffic to the hospital.

Ted and Billy

Now about a year and a half since she left, Joanna returns to New York in order to claim Billy ...

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Release Date: December 17, 1979
Runtime: 105 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures

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