An excellent portrait of family dysfunction, I can imagine this hit a nerve with audiences for its frank take on a condition that was, unfortunately, affecting them in increasing numbers, in the late seventies: of course I am talking about divorce.
Nonetheless, it's an uneven film, not in terms of quality, but balance; the film truly belongs to Dustin Hoffman's performance of Ted Kramer, who takes centre stage as Meryl Streep's Joanna Kramer, disappears for large portions of the film. Only a few instances of Ted's short temper fuel any sort of backlash against an otherwise endearing paternal figure, while the audience is given far less cause to sympathize with Joanna, whose reasons for leaving Ted (and more importantly, her son) are never really explored.
It's the strange transfigurations of Ted's life that make Kramer vs. Kramer such an interesting study, such as when a court-ordered deadline forces him into the office of an executive, in the waning hours before the Christmas holiday, to practically beg for a job for which he is overqualified, this was probably my favourite bit of the film and it really made me smile.
While there's no reason Ted's story alone should not be the focus, the film's title suggests a war waged with equal ammunition by two wronged parties, and Kramer vs. Kramer is not such a film.
But the actors' perfect performances, and the way the script lays bare the despair and emotional warfare of an increasingly common and normalized legal process certainly makes me see why this film is considered a classic.