Friday, July 11, 2014

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Kramer vs. Kramer1979's Kramer vs. Kramer mirrored a trend that was becoming more and more prevalent in America in the 1970's, the breakup of marriages. Dustin Hoffman & Meryl Streep star as Ted & Joanna Kramer. Ted is the prototypical yuppie. His job in an advertising company is really accelerating and it is taking up most of his time from his family that also includes eight-year old Billy (Justin Henry). Ted is so involved in his career, he knows little of the day-to day routine of his own household. One day, Ted's world is shattered when Joanna leaves him and Billy in order to find herself. Ted must learn how to raise his son, juggle his work and home life and go through a divorce trial. The film is both poignant and touching as Ted & Billy bond and form a loving relationship. Mr. Hoffman is excellent as is Ms. Streep and Jane Alexander gives a strong turn as the Kramer's woman's libber neighbor who Ted feels egged Joanna on and caused the breakup of his marriage. But the true find is young Justin Henry. He gives one of the finest performances by a preteen in movie history. The film was much lauded and praised and come Oscar time, Mr. Hoffman finally took home the Best Actor award after several failed nominations. Ms. Streep won Best Supporting Actress, director Robert Benton took home the Best Director award and the film won Best Picture.

"Kramer vs. Kramer" was released in theaters back in 1979 and is about the Kramer family. The film starts off with Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) with her 7-year-old son Billy (Justin Henry) and watching him go to sleep at night. Ted Kramer is a busy advertising designer who works his tail off to provide for his family and is eventually recognized by the advertising firm he works for and selecting him to take on a major account.

Excited about the new developments for his work, you realize that Ted is a workaholic and dedicated to his job. Once he gets home, Joanna tells him that she is leaving him and Billy. She doesn't where she's going but she's leaving and not coming back. She also tells him that she doesn't love him anymore.

Ted doesn't understand what is going on. He just got this major account, an account that could bring more income to the family but now he's faced with a wife that left him and now having to raise his son by himself.

We watch the transformation of Ted Kramer within a 18-month period, as he struggles and becomes a good father for his son while trying to maintain his job.

Then out of nowhere, 18-months later, his ex-wife Joanna returns. After leaving Ted and Billy, Joanna has sorted her life and got herself a new job. But most of all, she wants custody of Billy.

This sets up a legal battle between both Kramers for custody of Billy.

"Kramer vs. Kramer" is not only a moving film but it really hits the nail on where cultural society was going during that time. Women wanting a bigger presence in their careers and not wanting to be just housewives and also how divorce can change the family dynamics and how one would face becoming a single parent.


The film is featured in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). The Blu-ray transfer is definitely the best transfer of this film as knowing that it was released back in 1979, watching it 30-years later and it's so clear at different parts of the film, that the film doesn't show its age in terms of film quality. Of course, the film shows its age in terms of the clothing used and that phone calls were made via the old rotary phones of that time but picture quality was very good. There were some indoor shots that had a bit more grain but overall, a very good transfer.

As for the audio, audio is featured in TrueHD5.1. The film is primarily a dialogue-based film but I did notice that in some outdoor scenes, you can hear people's discussions in the rear and side channels. Also, when you hear that guitar strumming of the film, the music really comes quite clear and noticeable. Overall, being a dialogue-driven film, audio is clear.


The Blu-ray comes with one major special feature and that is the documentary "Finding the Truth: The Making of Kramer vs. Kramer". This special feature was on the original 2001 DVD release but for those who have never seen it, then this DVD definitely shows us some really in-depth behind-the-scenes situations. For one, both Robert Benton and Stanley R. Jaffe really wanted Dustin Hoffman for the role.

Hoffman was going through his first divorce and really wasn't sure where his life or his career would be going, not knowing if he wanted to do film anymore. But eventually, Benton and Jaffe wanted Hoffman that they moved to the area to be closer to him and work out the script for the film.

As for Meryl Streep, she was shooting "Manhattan" for Woody Allen and doing theater but as any actress starting out, she wanted the role badly and hoped that Benton and Jaffe would allow her the time to shoot both films which they did.

As for Justin Henry, the casting of his role was so crucial that his mannerisms captured both Hoffman, Benton and the crew's attention. The child was essentially born to play that role.

But what is more enjoyable was to know how certain scenes were improvised. From the broken glass scene, Meryl Streep and the director didn't know that was going to happen, so that was a genuine reaction. Also, to see how Hoffman would help Justin achieve his emotional scenes especially in the hospital scene was definitely insightful.

But overall, you learn a lot of interesting facts from the film and it was good to see the all the major talent interviewed for this segment.


The film is ultimately moving and your easily drawn into the story and its characters.

"Kramer vs. Kramer" is a film that definitely made an impact on society at that time because cultural society of "motherhood" and "fatherhood" was changing. The focus on two parents working, the woman becoming more independent and not being forced to stay at home to take care of children and eventually the film would be used and brought up for several court cases that involved custody battles.

Granted, divorces are much, much more common place but 30-years ago, "Kramer vs. Kramer" was released during a time where "Brady Bunch" just ended several years earlier and TV sitcoms focused so much on the family dynamic, father was making the money and the women were essentially housewives. "Kramer vs. Kramer" was a film about a man who was the moneymaker in a top job now having to face becoming a single father while his ex-wife, unhappy of having to be forced to be a stay-at-home wife, now searching for her life and essentially getting a job (that pays more than what Ted is making).

Suffice to say, this film worked on many levels because of the talents were wellcast. Dustin Hoffman is an excellent actor and his use of improvisational and trying to make sure the scenes work was well done. Justin Henry as Billy was one of the best examples of excellent child acting and seeing a kid through a variety of emotions happiness, sadness and excruciating pain. And of course, Meryl Streep, with only 15-minutes of screen time, manages to really bring out the character of Joanna in a variety of levels. Also, Jane Alexander as the family friend Margaret, who definitely brought a contrast towards Ted Kramer's situation of a wife who's husband has left her with the kids.

The storyline was well-written and until I saw the featurette on Blu-ray, I never realized how certain pivotal scenes were improvised and Dustin Hoffman really made sure he could bring out the best in both Meryl Streep and Justin Henry. But also to find out that during the filming of "Kramer vs. Kramer", Dustin Hoffman was essentially playing himself because during that same time, he was going through his first divorce and was emotionally distraught of the situations in his personal life at that time.

"Kramer vs. Kramer" looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. Granted, times have changed considerably within the last 30 years but knowing how much this film impacted pop culture at that time and just knowing how things were behind-the-scenes in the making of the film, "Kramer vs. Kramer" never looked more beautiful as it does with this release.

A classic film worth owning on Blu-ray!

Buy Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) Now

A career-driven man, insensitive to his wife and son's needs, is suddenly immersed in parenting when his wife (Meryl Streep) leaves him and their son to find herself. Throughout the film, as Ted adjusts to the demands of parenting, his career suffers, but his relationship with his young son grows. Over a year later, when his wife returns and tries to regain custody of the boy, Ted fights to retain custody.

The movie presents a well-done portrait of a family the conflicting demands of a relationship, parenting and personal growth. It also tells the touching story of a father and son, and the sacrifices the father is willing to make in the name of love. A classic as powerful today as 25 years ago.

Read Best Reviews of Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) Here

This is a very good movie with three extraordinary leading performances. Much has been said about the work of Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, and Justin Henry (who plays their son) in this film. 23 years later, these peformances remain great. Everyone knows what powerful actors Hoffman and Streep are at their best. So what really stood out to me was Justin Henry. He is absolutely natural; not a "phony" moment in his performance.

I do wonder if the film would've been even better if Streep's character had been fleshed out a bit more. It's extremely hard to relate to her. We don't see anything particularly bad or intolerable in Hoffman's character, so her abandoning of their son seems unconscionable. She had to go "find herself?" I had no sympathy for her, simply because it seemed she walked away from a loving and devoted husband. I understand he was very busy with work, but he was putting food on their table. When raising kids, sacrifices must be made. Hoffman's character sacrificed most of his leisure time in order to work hard. Based on what we see in the film, Streep's character didn't want to make those kinds of sacrifices.

Anyway, if a movie can spark conversations, or even debates, it must've done something right. The DVD features an insightful 50 minute documentary, loaded with interviews of all the principal participants in this well-made movie.

Want Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) Discount?

Definitely a period piece, it is worth a revisit 31 years later for several reasons. First, it gave Meryl Streep her first Oscar (as a "Supporting" Actress, so don't expect to see a lot of her). Second, it's an interesting look at what socially was probably ground-breaking gender-bending in 1979: the question of whether the best "mom" for a child caught in divorce could be the dad. And third, the young son caught between his parents is simply adorable!

What I like about this film is its realism. Neither parent is portrayed as the bad person, and the emotional development of each character is believable. The acting is superb, and the film is well written, directed, produced, and cast.

On the negative side, it is an emotionally heavy film, as, like in reality, the child is in such innocent pain. Also, by today's film standards, even though it lasts only 105 minutes, it is a little slow at times.

Adult themes, sexual situations, language.

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