Kramer vs. Kramer

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Kramer vs. Kramer
Oscar posters 79.jpg
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
Starring Dustin Hoffman
Meryl Streep
Justin Henry
Jane Alexander
Music by Paul Gemignani
Herb Harris
John Kander
Erma E. Levin
Roy B. Yokelson
Antonio Vivaldi
Cinematography Néstor Almendros
Editing by Gerald B. Greenberg
Ray Hubley
Bill Pankow
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • December 19, 1979 (1979-12-19)
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million1
Box office $106,260,0002

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 in 1980 in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.

Plot

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, forcing him to take a lower-paid 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 his true home is with Ted. She will therefore not take him. As she enters the elevator to go and talk to Billy, she asks her ex-husband "How do I look?" The movie ends with the elevator doors closing on the emotional Joanna, right after Ted answers, "You look terrific."

Cast

Production

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.3 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.

Reception

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."4 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."5

Cultural impact

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.6

Awards and nominations

The film won 5 Oscars, another 31 wins and 15 nominations.

American Film Institute Lists
Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
52nd Academy Awards Academy Award for Best Picture Stanley R. Jaffe Won
Academy Award for Best Director Robert Benton Won
Academy Award for Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Won
Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay Robert Benton Won
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Justin Henry Nominated
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Jane Alexander Nominated
Meryl Streep Won
Academy Award for Best Cinematography Nestor Almendros Nominated
Academy Award for Best Film Editing Jerry Greenberg Nominated
34th British Academy Film Awards BAFTA Award for Best Film Stanley R. Jaffe Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Direction Robert Benton Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role Dustin Hoffman Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role Meryl Streep Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay Robert Benton Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Editing Jerry Greenberg Nominated
César Awards 1981 César Award for Best Foreign Film Robert Benton Nominated
David di Donatello Awards David di Donatello for Best Foreign Film Robert Benton Won
David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actor Dustin Hoffman Won
Special David Justin Henry Nominated
37th Golden Globe Awards Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama Stanley R. Jaffe Won
Golden Globe Award for Best Director Robert Benton Won
Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actor - Drama Dustin Hoffman Won
Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay Robert Benton Won
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor Justin Henry Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress Jane Alexander Nominated
Meryl Streep Won
Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture – Male Justin Henry Nominated
Japan Academy Prize Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Foreign Language Film Robert Benton Won
Blue Ribbon Awards Best Foreign Language Film Robert Benton Won
Directors Guild of America Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film Robert Benton Won
Hochi Film Award Best International Picture Robert Benton Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards 1979 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film Robert Benton Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Robert Benton Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards 1979 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Film Robert Benton Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Robert Benton Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
National Board of Review Awards 1979 National Board of Review: Top Ten Films Robert Benton Won
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards 1979 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film Robert Benton Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director Robert Benton Won
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Won
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress Jane Alexander Nominated
Meryl Streep Won
1979 New York Film Critics Circle Awards New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film Robert Benton Won
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Robert Benton Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Won
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress Jane Alexander Nominated
Meryl Streep Won
Writers Guild of America Award Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay Robert Benton Nominated
2nd Youth in Film Awards Young Artist Award for Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film Justin Henry Won

Adaptation

In 1995, Kramer vs. Kramer was remade in India as Akele Hum Akele Tum, starring Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala.

See also

References

  1. ^ Oscarblogger: Kramer vs. Kramer. Retrieved April 1, 2013
  2. ^ "Kramer vs Kramer (1979)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  3. ^ Spelling, Aaron; Graham, Jefferson (1996). A Prime-Time Life: An Autobiography. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 112. ISBN 0-312-14268-4. 
  4. ^ "Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)". Retrieved April 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 29, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Kramer vs. Kramer". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  7. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  8. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot

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