Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) walks out on her advertising-art-director husband Michael (Dustin Hoffman). Though he is obviously insensitive to everyone's feelings but his own, Michael has not lost his wife because of this; she simply… More Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) walks out on her advertising-art-director husband Michael (Dustin Hoffman). Though he is obviously insensitive to everyone's feelings but his own, Michael has not lost his wife because of this; she simply wants to go out and "find herself". Also left behind is the Kramers' 6-year-old son Billy (Justin Henry), whom Michael barely knows. At first, both father and son resent each other's company, but before long they have formed a strong bond of love and mutual respect. So devoted a father does Michael become that he begins neglecting his work and loses his job. Suddenly, Joanna reenters his life, announcing that she now has a well-paying job herself, and wants full custody of Billy. During the subsequent court battle, Michael takes a job far beneath his talents to prove that he's a worthy parent. Still, he loses the case, though the film ends on a note of hope. In adapting Avery Corman's novel, writer/director Robert Benton wisely altered the character of Joanna Kramer from a spiteful shrew to a well-meaning but confused woman who merely wants what she thinks is best for herself and her child. Benton also sagaciously removed a secondary romance between Michael Kramer and his platonic lady friend Margaret Phelps (Jane Alexander). By refusing to truckle to the Obvious, Benton transformed Kramer vs. Kramer from a standard marital-breakup tale to a film of rare depth and honesty. An incredible moneymaker, Kramer vs. Kramer also did well for itself at Oscar time, winning awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Streep-but who was she supporting?), Best Screenplay and Best Director.
Consensus: 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.