The performances in Kramer vs. Kramer are what drive the story to great drama. Both Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep won Academy Awards for their portrayals of the dueling Kramer’s. Streep plays a woman who has grown cold and distant from the family she once loved. Like many women, her troubles may lie in that she married too young; or, as she states, the fact that Ben’s love of his work is what dominates his life, not his love for his wife and child. Her assertiveness to leave is a sad fact among many married couples today—they don’t feel like working things out. On the flipside of that coin, Ben seems blinded to Joanna’s needs and feelings. His world revolves around making it to the top of the corporate ladder. Even when Joanna is trying to tell Ben she’s leaving him, his reaction is for her to wait one minute while he finishes up a task brought home from the office.
Streep is very good as Joanna, though she’s off-screen so much that her character almost seems to be even lower than supporting. Some say this Oscar was given due to the fact that she SHOULD have won the year before for her role in Deer Hunter. Regardless as to why, Meryl gave her all, as she always does.