The World According to Garp (1982) from Tuna

The World According to Garp (1982), is Robin Williams third film (and second lead role) as T. S. Garp, and marks the film debut of Glen Close as his unconventional and unmarried mother. Close (Jenny Fields) doesn't understand lust or sexuality, but decides she wants a child, and impregnates herself with an unconscious dying soldier, Top Sergeant Garp, just before his death. Jenny is a trained nurse, and Garp is raised on a college campus where she works. Garp does understand lust, and desires sex. He grows up with Cushie, and they play their version of doctor whenever they can. . Unfortunately for Garp, Helen Holm, played by Mary Beth Hurt, who he has been courting and eventually marries, sees them at it. Garp decides to become a writer to impress Helen, and his mother decides to also become a writer. Garp writes an excellent short story, and his mother writes a very timely feminist manifesto which becomes a runaway bestseller. Garp becomes best known as the bastard son of Jenny Fields.
Jenny becomes the Goddess of the feminist movement, and attracts every hurt, abused and damaged women in the known universe, whom she tries to heal, and becomes the target for violent men who are threatened by her feminist stand. One of the feminists, a former tight end turned transsexual,  played by John Lithgow, nearly steals the film. Garp Marries Helen, and, in one of my favorite moments from the film, buys a house. While the two are being shown the house by their agent, a small plane crashes into the second story. At this point, Garp decides to buy the house because it is "pre-disastered," and will be safe.  


As a young adult, Garp has sex in the bushes with Cushie (Jenny Wright) who shows us clear breasts in a fairly lengthy scene
The film traces Garp's entire life, and that of his mother. It works best before the messages regarding feminism, grief, healing, forgiveness, and the main theme of living for the moment kick in, but is enjoyable beginning to end. Close and Lithgow were both nominated for Supporting roles by the academy, and won the titles outright in several places. In thinking about the film for this review, I started comparing it in my mind to other Williams films, and wondered how they were ranked at IMDB:

3.5 Can I Do It Till I Need Glasses
4.7 Popeye
7.0 The World According to Garp
5.4 The Survivors
6.2 Moscow on the Hudson
5.9 Seize the Day
4.2 Club Paradise
5.5 Best of Times
7.0 Good Morning Vietnam
6.7 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
7.7 Dead Poets Society
5.2 Cadillac Man
7.4 Awakenings
7.1 Dead Again
7.3 The Fisher King
5.6 Hook
5.4 Shakes the Clown
4.5 Toys
6.4 Mrs. Doubtfire
4.8 Being Human
5.2 Nine Months
6.0 Jumanji
5.5 To Wong Foo, Thanks for the Memories, Julie Newmar
6.5 The Birdcage
5.2 Jack
5.4 The Secret Agent
7.7 Hamlet
4.6 Fathers Day
7.0 Deconstructing Harry
4.6 Flubber
7.9 Good Will Hunting
6.2 What Dreams May Come
6.2 Patch Adams
5.9 Get Bruce
5.6 Jacob the Liar
6.4 Bicentennial Man

It proved to be a very interesting exercise. It is widely held that Williams has become stale as an actor, but the user ratings of his films don't bear that out. In fact, his highest rated film is Good Will Hunting, also one of his more recent. I have to agree that it is one of his best performances. It looks as if older films are usually rated lower than newer films, as Garp is often thought to be one of his best, but only carries a 7.0. My personal favorite, Moscow on the Hudson, is in the barely watchable range at 6.2, and The Birdcage is only 6.5. It is clear that having Williams in a supporting role doesn't insure success or failure, nor do his lead performances. If we use 7.0 or better as the cutoff for very good films, he has appeared in 9 of them, but nothing in the top 250.

Some roles are nearly made for Williams, and Garp is one of them. It also has the virtue of "offbeat energy,"  and fits in Comedy, Romance and Drama genres

Scoop's comments: an excellent example of a movie managing to catch the essence of an book with a unique tone. Author John Irving is both very serious and very funny, both very realistic and surrealistically absurd. His characters are, for lack of a better description, both grotesque and sympathetic. Those oxymoronic characteristics aren't easy to recreate on screen. The movie caught the wave, and rode it beautifully. As Irving movies go, I like this film better than The Cider House Rules because it managed to catch his surreal humor as well as his sentimentality.

They don't give Oscars to casting directors, but here's a case where one may have been deserved for Marion Dougherty. Williams wasn't then known or respected as an actor, and had never made anything worth watching. Close and Lithgow weren't known at all. Each of them nailed the part. Each of them went on to a lasting career.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • The DVD transfer is superb, but no significant features. 

Director George Roy Hill made a lot of movies that I like, "The World of Henry Orient", "The Sting", "Slap Shot", and "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid". He was 60 when he made Garp, and it was his last hurrah. After that, he made two disappointments, the dreadfully over-serious international intrigue, "The Little Drummer Girl", and the completely unfunny "Funny Farm".

By the way, most athletes and actors have their best work in the middle of their careers, not at the beginning or end, assuming they don't die young. Of course there are plenty of exceptions. Richard Farnsworth was an obvious exception among actors, Dwight Gooden among athletes.

Williams' greatest film, probably the greatest film ever made, "Shakes the Clown", was in the dead center. 

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 4/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.0 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B.

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