Kramer vs. Kramer
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|Kramer vs. Kramer|
Original film poster
|Directed by||Robert Benton|
|Produced by||Richard Fischoff
Stanley R. Jaffe
|Screenplay by||Robert Benton|
|Based on||Kramer vs. Kramer
by Avery Corman
|Music by||Paul Gemignani
Erma E. Levin
Roy B. Yokelson
|Edited by||Gerald B. Greenberg
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Kramer vs. Kramer is a 1979 American 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 five Academy Awards at the 52nd Academy Awards in 1980, in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.
Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is a workaholic advertising executive who has just been assigned a new and very important account. Ted arrives home and shares the good news with his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) only to find that she is leaving him. Saying that she needs to find herself, she leaves Ted to raise their son Billy (Justin Henry) by himself. Ted and Billy initially resent one another as Ted no longer has time to carry his increased workload and Billy misses his mother's love and attention. After months of unrest, Ted and Billy learn to cope and gradually bond as father and son.
Ted befriends his neighbor Margaret (Jane Alexander), who had initially counseled Joanna to leave Ted if she was that unhappy. Margaret is a fellow single parent, and she and Ted become kindred spirits. One day, as the two sit in the park watching their children play, Billy falls off the jungle gym, severely cutting his face. Ted sprints several blocks through oncoming traffic carrying Billy to the hospital, where he comforts his son during treatment.
Fifteen months after she walked out, Joanna returns to New York to claim Billy, and a custody battle ensues. During the custody hearing, both Ted and Joanna are unprepared for the brutal character assassinations that their lawyers unleash on the other. Margaret is forced to testify that she had advised an unhappy Joanna to leave Ted, though she also attempts to tell Joanna on the stand that her husband has profoundly changed. Eventually, the damaging facts that Ted was fired because of his conflicting parental responsibilities which forced him to take a lower-paying job come out in court, as do the details of Billy's accident.
The court awards custody to Joanna, a decision mostly based on the assumption that a child is best raised by his mother. Ted discusses appealing the case, but his lawyer warns that Billy himself would have to take the stand in the resulting trial. Ted cannot bear the thought of submitting his child to such an ordeal, and decides not to contest custody.
On the morning that Billy is to move in with Joanna, Ted and Billy make breakfast together, mirroring the meal that Ted tried to cook the first morning after Joanna left. They share a tender hug, knowing that this is their last daily breakfast together. Joanna calls on the intercom, asking Ted to come down to the lobby. She tells Ted how much she loves and wants Billy, but she knows that his true home is with Ted, and therefore will not take custody of him. She asks Ted if she can see Billy, and Ted says that that would be OK. As they are about to enter the elevator together, Ted tells Joanna that he will stay downstairs to allow Joanna to see Billy in private. After she enters the elevator, Joanna wipes tears from her face and asks her former husband "How do I look?" As the elevator doors start to close on Joanna, Ted answers, "Terrific," and the movie ends.
- Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer
- Meryl Streep as Joanna Kramer
- Justin Henry as Billy Kramer
- Jane Alexander as Margaret Phelps
- Petra King as Petie Phelps
- Melissa Morell as Kim Phelps
- Howard Duff as John Shaunessy
- George Coe as Jim O'Connor
- JoBeth Williams as Phyllis Bernard
- Howland Chamberlain as Judge Atkins
- Dan Tyra as Court Clerk
Kate Jackson was originally offered the role played by Meryl Streep but was forced to turn it down. At the time, Jackson was appearing in the TV series Charlie's Angels, and producer Aaron Spelling told her that they were unable to rearrange the shooting schedule to give her time off to do the film. At the time, Streep was cast as Phyllis (the one-night stand Ted has); this role was eventually given to JoBeth Williams when Streep was cast as Joanna. The producers initially asked François Truffaut to direct; in fact, cinematographer Néstor Almendros, a collaborator on numerous Truffaut films, had already been hired with the expectation that Truffaut would helm the film. Truffaut seriously considered it, but in the end, too busy with his own projects, turned it down and suggested screenwriter Robert Benton direct it himself.
The film received positive reviews from critics. It holds an 88% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.9/10. The consensus reads: "The divorce subject isn't as shocking, but the film is still a thoughtful, well-acted drama that resists the urge to take sides or give easy answers." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars, giving praise to Benton's screenplay: "His characters aren't just talking to each other, they're revealing things about themselves and can sometimes be seen in the act of learning about their own motives. That's what makes Kramer vs. Kramer such a touching film: We get the feeling at times that personalities are changing and decisions are being made even as we watch them."
Kramer vs. Kramer reflected a cultural shift which occurred during the 1970s, when ideas about motherhood and fatherhood were changing. The film was widely praised for the way in which it gave equal weight and importance to both Joanna and Ted's points of view.
At the time of release, the court default standard was to lean heavily toward the mother in custody suits. The movie's social impact was to challenge this and start conversations on this. Court standards have since changed, and fathers are not automatically considered lesser options for being awarded custody.
Mad Magazine satirized the film as "Crymore vs. Crymore."
Awards and nominations
The film won 5 Oscars, another 31 wins and 15 nominations.
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - #3 Courtroom Drama
- Oscarblogger: Kramer vs. Kramer. Retrieved April 1, 2013
- "Kramer vs Kramer (1979)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-11-17.
- Spelling, Aaron; Graham, Jefferson (1996). A Prime-Time Life: An Autobiography. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 112. ISBN 0-312-14268-4.
- "Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)". Retrieved April 29, 2010.
- "Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
- "Kramer vs. Kramer". Chicago Sun-Times.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
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- Kramer vs. Kramer at the Internet Movie Database
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- Kramer vs. Kramer at Rotten Tomatoes
|Academy Award winner for
My Left Foot