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Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 7.9/10
Reviews Counted: 40
Fresh: 35 | Rotten: 5

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.

78

Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 2

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.

audience

89

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 41,890

My Rating

Movie Info

Robert Benton's Oscar-winning adaptation of Avery Corman's bestseller takes on contemporary problems of divorce and shifting gender roles, as a jilted husband learns how to be a nurturing father. Manhattan housewife Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) walks out on her workaholic ad man husband Ted (Dustin Hoffman), leaving their young son Billy (Justin Henry) in Ted's less than capable hands. Through trial and error, Ted learns how to take care of Billy, devoting more energy to his family than to his

PG,

Drama

Robert Benton

Aug 28, 2001

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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All Critics (40) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (5) | DVD (13)

It's an interesting movie to look back on for its attitudes: In the guise of being a consciousness-raiser it plumps for male tenderness and demonizes the mother who can't recognize how far her workaholic ex-hubbie has come.

February 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Kramer Vs. Kramer is a perceptive, touching, intelligent film about one of the raw sores of contemporary America, the dissolution of the family unit.

February 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
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Benton's direction must first be praised for his choice of actors and his collaboration with them.

February 6, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Benton gives his film its depth and complexity by challenging the audience's preconceptions and snap opinions at every turn.

February 24, 2010 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Kramer vs. Kramer is definitely a movie to watch together -- your kids may well seek shelter under your arm, glad to know their own families enjoy more peace.

February 2, 2007 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Misogynistic claptrap.

December 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (7)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Sensitive, truthful look at the breakup of a family.

February 11, 2014 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

There is so seldom even one great performance in a movie that three is too much to expect. For that reason alone, this story of a couple battling for custody of their young son is a remarkable achievement.

January 17, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

What could so easily have become something false and tacky is handled with truth and restraint.

January 17, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Like a few other recent movies, it takes a serious look at problems faced in real people in real life -- family conflicts, personality problems, childrearing dilemmas.

February 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

Benton's Oscar-winning film, a middlebrow family melodrama, well acted by Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, reflected the new positions and struggles of women in American society.

April 24, 2012 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

it remains one of the most compelling films of the decade, even if time has tarnished a bit of its sheen.

November 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

Oscar-dominating 1970s weepie that is just waiting to be rediscovered.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Hugely popular on its initial release, this looks, in retrospect, like nothing much more than a glossy soap passed off as serious drama.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine | Comment (1)
Empire Magazine

This excellent struggle of a dad to keep his son by his side is a pure classic, with Hoffman at his best.

July 13, 2007
Film Threat

Another in a long list of those overrated Oscar winners for Best Picture.

February 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews | Comments (5)
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A movie that makes you think about the relevance of the thought that only mother's make great single-parent adults.

December 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

It's the old wash, but so well done that we can overlook Benton's manipulations of our emotions and let our feelings flow.

December 4, 2006 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Set up to make Hoffman seem like the good guy, and it's so confident that we'll root for him that it gets sloppy.

October 7, 2006 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies | Comments (2)
Goatdog's Movies

Audience Reviews for Kramer vs. Kramer

In 1979, America was just beginning to see the effects of the women's movement on the american family. There was a great amount of role reversal in the home, and the divorce rates had begun to skyrocket. In "Kramer vs. Kramer", we witness the collapse of a marriage that before, in a more typical movie, would see the man walking out on the woman, leaving her to support and raise their child alone, but now sees the woman leaving, as she feels unfulfilled in life and wants something better (there aren't necessarily any villains in this movie, only victims). Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is the husband, climbing his way up the corporate ladder, making great business contacts while his family contacts languish. Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) is the wife, and the only reason she's stayed with him so long is her love for little Billy, their son. As the film opens, it's come to the point where her desperation and unhappiness have surpassed even the love for her son, and she's packing to leave. Ted arrives home, high on the news he may be made a V.P. at work, completely unaware of his wife's condition or their situation. "She's ruined one of the five best days of my life" he complains, after she's walked out on him (notice the emphasis is all on him). In the midst of all this selfishness, no one seems to notice that Billy has been virtually abandoned by both parents. No, he's no Oliver Twist: he has a home, he has food and clothing, and he wants for nothing, but the adults in his life, the people who are supposed to be foundation of his very person, are letting him down in a most cruel way. Being forced together, Ted and Billy must interact without the motherly intermediary present, and it's a learning experience for both father and son. Ted goes from ignoring his son and being largely dismissive to realizing just how valuable that child is to his existence, and how much that child depends on him for literally everything. It's only after the immensity of this "parenthood thing" dawns on Ted that Joanna comes back into the picture, and after a 18-month absence, sues Ted for custody of their son.

Perhaps it takes becoming a parent to truly realize the stakes of a movie like Kramer vs. Kramer. There are few things more powerful than the love a parent has for their child (I know I would without hesitation give my life for my daughter, and even a thought of some harm be-fouling her can put literal, physical tears in my eyes almost in an instant), and yet as parents, we are capable of so much destruction in these little lives. The extent to which we can emotionally cripple our own offspring is both shocking and horrifying. They're little people, very small physically, and sometimes it's easier to ignore them while focusing on our own needs, and not even realize what it is that we're doing until it's too late. Even though I've never gone through a divorce, I can empathize with the emotions this movie projects. Parenthood is perhaps the less glamourous of the 'big emotions' that make for movie material (Death and Romantic Love usually get all the glory), but parenthood is just as powerful, just as devastating as any other great mystery of life.
April 24, 2013
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

One of the first and hardest-hitting films to address divorce on the big screen, the 1979 Best Picture winner is a touch melodramatic for me but is filled with great moments, particularly the scene in which Dustin Hoffman's character has to convince his son that he will not ever leave him. What's good and tough about this film is that we see the impossible situation in which Hoffman's character is placed - he'll almost certainly lose the custody battle, even though he's not the one who ran off. It's a bit disheartening that the only film I can think of to show sexism in the legal system focuses on a "poor-me" man's story, and I have a hard time getting behind Hoffman as an actor in general - I just don't buy him when he's happy, but regardless, this is a slice of life that's well structured and has a perfect ending. Its subject matter may have been a much bigger deal when this movie was made, but there's no denying that it stands up today, and if you don't need a tissue at some point while watching, you're probably not human. A great film that everyone must see once.
November 4, 2012
danperry17

Super Reviewer

I enjoy dramas about dysfunctional families just like I enjoy dramas about historical figures. If there is something unique and worthwhile the film has to offer, count me in. If it's just another addition to the pile, count me out. Kramer vs. Kramer was first released in 1979. It wasn't the first film centering on a dysfunctional family, and it certainly wasn't the last; nor was it anywhere close to the greatest. Ordinary People (1980), What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), The Descendants (2011). The list goes on and on, but when I imagine such films, those three are the first to come to mind. Not only do they offer outstanding performances, they offer great, unexpected surprises and alterations to keep us entertained with a story about as old as Methuselah. Kramer vs. Kramer, despite remaining one of the most recognized and praised films of the 1970s, only ventures halfway. Although such marvelous acting ability is worthy of praise and makes the film watchable, in no way does it redeem the film's overwhelmingly submissive faith to convention.
October 20, 2012
spielberg00

Super Reviewer

Kramer Vs. Kramer is a powerful closer portrait of a divorce, very good executed.
July 29, 2012
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

    1. Billy Kramer: I like Boston.
    2. Ted Kramer: Boston? Why do you like Boston?
    3. Billy Kramer: 'Cause Mommy's from Boston.
    – Submitted by Adam O (14 months ago)
    1. Ted Kramer: Is that what you think? No. That's not it, Billy. Your mom loves you very much... and the reason she left has nothing to do with you. I don't know if this will make sense, but I'll try to explain it to you. I think the reason why Mommy left... was because for a long time... I kept trying to make her be a certain kind of person. A certain kind of wife that I thought she was supposed to be. And she just wasn't like that. She was... She just wasn't like that. I think that she tried for so long to make me happy... and when she couldn't, she tried to talk to me about it. But I wasn't listening. I was too busy, too wrapped up... just thinking about myself. And I thought that anytime I was happy, she was happy. But I think underneath she was very sad. Mommy stayed here longer than she wanted because she loves you so much. And the reason why Mommy couldn't stay anymore... was because she couldn't stand me. She didn't leave because of you. She left because of me. Go to sleep now because it's really late, okay? Good night. Sleep tight
    – Submitted by Adam O (15 months ago)
    1. Billy Kramer: We need cereal.
    2. Ted Kramer: Okay, what color?
    – Submitted by Adam O (15 months ago)
    1. Joanna Kramer: I want my son!
    2. Ted Kramer: You can't have him.
    – Submitted by Matheus C (2 years ago)
    1. Billy Kramer: I hate you!
    2. Ted Kramer: And I hate you back, you little shit!
    – Submitted by Neptune F (3 years ago)
View all quotes (5)

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