Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has just finished college and, back at his parents’ house, he’s trying to avoid the one question everyone keeps asking: What does he want to do with his life? An unexpected diversion crops up when he is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), a bored housewife and friend of his parents. But what begins as a fun tryst turns complicated when Benjamin falls for the one woman Mrs. Robinson demanded he stay away from, her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross).
New York actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is a talented perfectionist who is so hard on himself and others that his agent (Sydney Pollack) can no longer find work for him. After a soap opera audition goes poorly, Michael reinvents himself as actress Dorothy Michaels and wins the part. What was supposed to be a short-lived role turns into a long-term contract, but when Michael falls for his castmate Julie (Jessica Lange), complications develop that could wreck everything.
Ted Kramer’s wife leaves her husband, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couple’s son, deepening the wounds left by the separation.
Kramer vs. Kramer reflected a cultural shift which occurred during the 1970s, when ideas about motherhood and fatherhood were changing. The film was widely praised for the way in which it gave equal weight and importance to both Joanna and Ted’s points of view.