Kramer vs. Kramer
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Winner of 5 Academy Awards®, Kramer vs. Kramer is a ground- breaking drama about the heartbreak of divorce and the struggle between work and family. Young husband and father Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) loves his family - and his job, which is where he spends most of his time. When he returns home late one evening from work, his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) confronts him and then leaves him, forcing Ted to become the sole caregiver to their six-year-old son. Now, Ted must learn to be a father while balancing the demands of his high-pressure career. But just as Ted adapts to his new role and begins to feel like a fulfilled parent, Joanna returns. And now she wants her son back.
- Exclusive Documentary: "Finding the Truth: The Making of Kramer vs. Kramer"
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OK, she had some of it coming — she did abandon her child — but I think the script still goes too far. Perhaps Benton might have translated Joanna’s trial testimony from les-persuasive language of self-help and therapy into something closer to normal English. And just as he calls our attention to Joanna’s lawyer making unfair use of Billy’s playground injury in trial testimony, he might have focused on the unfair effort by Ted’s lawyer to make Joanna look like a slut. (They actually allow to stand her estimate of post-marriage boyfriends as between “three and 33.”)
The end also seems way too expedient. I don’t want to give it away, but suffice to say it’s a full 180 that in a real world might well confuse Billy all over again about the sturdiness of his mother’s affections. After an expensive and rigorous custody case, this isn’t the kind you “just do.”
But I have to remind myself here that Kramer vs. Kramer is finally just a movie and that when you need to quickly transform a downer into an uplifting experience, expedience is the writer’s friend.
Joanna’s friend, not so much.
It’s a really moving portrait as the idealized image of the Leave it to Beaver family is challenged by this new family dynamic that had not been depicted in such a way at that time. Kramer vs. Kramer really speaks to the broader question of just what or perhaps who can be considered a family? This is a question that many people in this country struggle with today.
In conclusion, Kramer vs. Kramer is a conversation starter.