230. Kramer vs. Kramer

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Movie: Kramer vs. Kramer

Release Date: December 19, 1979

Director: Robert Benton

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry, Jane Alexander, JoBeth Williams.

Tag Lines: “There are three sides to this love story!”

Relevance: I watched ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ with my family in the early 1980’s on HBO. I do not remember the exact year, but I am guessing I was either eleven or twelve years old when I saw it. I also do not remember much about the movie that first time except for one thing: female nudity.

The movie was rated PG so it was fair game for me to watch. I am not sure how much my mom and dad monitored what made a film PG in those days, but since PG stood for “parental guidance” and they watched it with me, they felt that they were doing their job. As I have said many times before, my parents were quite liberal with what we were allowed to watch, as long as things weren’t too gratuitous. So ‘Kramer vs Kramer,’ a movie my mom really wanted to see, was a go for our viewing pleasure.

Now a movie about marriage, divorce and custody battles wasn’t something I wanted to watch at eleven or twelve, but it was a popular Academy Award winning movie, so I endured. About half way through the movie, a female character gets out of bed (naked) and bumps into the young son of Dustin Hoffman’s character. The scene is played for laughs as the child seems unfazed by the naked lady trying to cover up her “private areas”and lasts at least over a minute. And just like that, ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ became my favorite movie of all time.

Every time the movie was on HBO I made sure to watch it. And by “watch it” I mean watch that scene with the naked lady. Hey, don’t judge me. I was maybe twelve at the time. There was no internet porn in those days nor were there any Playboy magazines hanging around the house. A kid had to get what a kid could get. I will say though that trying to catch that scene every time it was on, I watched more and more of the movie and started to enjoy other aspects of it as well. After its run on HBO, ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ became more than just the movie with a naked lady in it to me, it became a great movie for me.

Throughout the years I have watched this film numerous times. Being an Academy Award Best Picture winner, I have owned it on VHS, DVD and now Blu-Ray. In the late 1990’s when I was going through a divorce and custody battle, I re-watched it again. It was a great reminder to me at that vulnerable time that there are many sides to a story. Movies can do more than just entertain or show naked ladies, art can help, art can heal and art can help you move forward.

Today’s Thoughts: Watching ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ was definitely a different experience for me today at forty-nine than it was in my preteen and pre-divorce years. First of all, I do not feel the need to see a naked lady anymore. Secondly, watching a film about divorce and custody battles long after that dust had settled in my personal life wasn’t filled with as much raw emotion, although it still packs a pretty powerful punch.

It is fascinating to me that in 1979, when ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ was originally released, it was a breakthrough for discussions on gender roles, women’s rights, fathers’ rights, work-life balance, and single parenthood. Sadly we still suffer from issues regarding these topics in 2020 and the movie is just as relevant today as it must have been back then. That credit has to go towards the screenplay. It is a smart script that does look at many different sides to the story. As the tag line for the movie says “There are three sides to this love story,” and all of them are explored tremendously.

It also helps that the actors portraying these characters are some of the best and brightest in their craft. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep are superb to watch. I felt many emotions such as empathy, anger and blame toward both characters today at different times throughout the film. Their nuanced performances still make this forty-nine year old man cry. This is definitely a Kleenex movie.

Justin Henry as their child also aids in me grabbing for those tissues. He gives a remarkable performance and deserved his Academy Award nomination. At eight years old, he was the youngest actor to be nominated in any category and the only actor ever nominated in the same decade as their birth. At eight years old, I was watching Scooby-Doo. Over achiever.

The last take away from today’s viewing was JoBeth Williams. I totally forgot she was the “naked lady.” This was her feature film debut, and what a debut it was. Over the years she has remained one of my favorite actresses. One of her films is in my top ten favorite and influential films of all time. If you know me, you know that movie. If you don’t, you’ll just have to wait until December of this year.

‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ is definitely a film that stands the test of time and remains as culturally relevant today as it did when it won Best Picture. It is a touching and honest look at the American family and how to survive or simply endure the heartache that is bound to hit most of us in life.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (winner), Academy Award For Best Actor in a Leading Role, Dustin Hoffman (winner), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Meryl Streep (winner), Academy Award for Best Director, Robert Benton (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Robert Benton (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Justin Henry (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Jane Alexander (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Nestor Almendros (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Gerald B. Greenberg (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Dustin Hoffman (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Motion Picture, Meryl Streep (winner), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Robert Benton (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Robert Benton (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Motion Picture, Jane Alexander, Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Motion Picture, Justin Henry (nomination), Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture – Male, Justin Henry (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Robert Benton (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Gerald B. Greenberg (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Robert Benton (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. Robert Benton (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress, Meryl Streep (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Robert Benton (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay, Robert Benton (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress, Meryl Streep (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress, Meryl Streep (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director, Robert Benton (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress, Jane Alexander (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay, Robert Benton (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography, Nestor Almendros (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress, Meryl Streep (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Robert Benton (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress, Jane Alexander (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, RObert Benton (winner).

Ways to Watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, DVD Availability.

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