Great Oscar Scenes: Kramer vs Kramer

Dustin Hoffman shouts at a kid and gets an Oscar. If you or I did that the only thing we would get is a call from child services.

Kramer vs Kramer should be drippy, afternoon-movie-on-Five muck. That it isn’t is a testament to the terrific performances that are as natural as you will come across in a major Oscar-baiting flick. All great actors channel a bit of themselves into their roles and Dustin Hoffman is one of the greatest.

It’s the little touches that elevate this film – at the end of shooting the movie’s final sequence, his co-star Meryl Streep asks Hoffman if her crying has ruined her eye make-up, thinking their scene is finished. Director Robert Benton liked that bit so much he put it in the film. Streep was also caught unawares in a scene where Hoffman throws a glass of wine at a wall as they argue. The only other person than the actor who knew he was going to do it was the cameraman.

And then there is Kramer vs Kramer’s pièce de résistance – the ice-cream eating scene. Totally improvised by Hoffman and child actor Justin Henry, it is simply brilliant to watch. Not the only great food-related moment in the film (the cooking of French toast is also pretty damn good), but the most famous. And all because it feels so real.

The moment when this scene suddenly shifts from comedy to drama, as Henry bites into the forbidden ice-cream instead of his steak, is something we can all identify with, whether we were the petulant kid or have become the angry parent. It’s also a very brave scene – not too many A-list actors today would even consider calling a child a ‘little shit’ on screen.

But then that’s why Hoffman’s great work stands out, because he’s not afraid to tread where others wouldn’t even contemplate going. And he thoroughly deserved his Oscar for Kramer vs Kramer.



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4 Responses to “Great Oscar Scenes: Kramer vs Kramer”

  1. That really was a great scene. Love how he can’t even make French toast at the beginning and by the end he’s doing it without a second thought. The wine-slapping scene is pretty kickass too.

  2. I love this movie so much for a lot of the reasons you touched on. It just feels real and there are so many great, great scenes. I think my favorite scene is probably the courtroom scene. It makes little sense as a real court proceeding, but it’s so powerful.

  3. I still haven’t seen this b

  4. gah stupid computer….

    what i was trying to type was I still haven’t seen this but I know I really need to. Dustin Hoffman is such a fantastic actor, even in bad movies he’s brilliant.

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