The World According to Garp (1982)

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9.5 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Quirky, different story, nice change for Robin Williams at the time

The story has an odd flow and style that doesn't sit with everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The World According to Garp

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Genre(s):  Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  July 23, 1982

MPAA Rating:  R

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The world is different when you are young

T.S. Garp (Robin Williams) has had a strange life.  He lives in the shadow of his mother Jenny Fields (Glenn Close) who wanted a child and got one…by raping an injured, dying veteran.  When Jenny becomes a success by writing a woman’s liberation book called The Sexual Suspect…leaving Garp simply known as “the bastard son of Jenny Fields”.  As Garp tries to find his own identity and build a life with his wife Helen (Mary Beth Hurt), he finds his mother’s fame and his fame collide…and the danger is growing.

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Oh yeah…we’re gonna hook-up!

Directed by George Roy Hill, The World According to Garp adapts the award winning 1978 novel by John Irving.  The movie was initially met with mostly positive but mixed reviews from critics but has gained more credit over the years.  The movie received acting nominations for Best Supporting Actor (John Lithgow) and Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close).

The World According to Garp was one of the first “adult” films that I remember liking.  The very sexual themed movie is adult, but as a kid, I liked the weirdness to the story which includes transvestites, women with tongues cut out, and kids getting glass eyes.  I didn’t get a lot of the subject matter, but something in the movie clicked with me even as a kid.

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We’ve got to buy this house now!

I love John Irving.  He did help adapt the story (and cameos as a wrestling coach in the film).  He has a real surreal style of writing with huge extremes…but they for some reason make sense the way he writes them.  The movie is able to take all the weird elements and craft a solid dark comedy with a very circular feel of events occurring and then recurring.  The movie can go from a light story to a very dark story involving the Ellen Jamesians and political assassination.

Part of what makes the twist work is Robin Williams.  I am not the biggest Robin Williams fan, but he does frequently do good stuff.  This was his first big movie and he was able to come off Mork & Mindy with a movie that allows him to be rather humorous and a good transition to later dramatic films like Awakenings and Good Will Hunting.

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Hey…we took a course in scene stealing

Williams is backed up by a great supporting cast.  Mary Beth Hurt has a hard role as the wife struggling with a marriage in a high charged environment, but the film is stolen by both Glenn Close as the independent and debatably selfish Jenny Fields (who is actually only four years older than Williams) and the footballer turned woman Roberta Muldoon played by John Lithgow.  Other actors appearing include Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy as Jenny’s parents, Swoosie Kurtz as Garp’s hooker, Near Dark’s Jenny Wright as Cushie, and Amanda Plummer as the deity-like Ellen James.

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Snitch, psycho, Ellen Jamesian…aka Pooh

The movie has some great visuals and moments.  The open the film with “When I’m 64” and a baby being tossed in the air sets the tone.  The extreme characters have somewhat extreme and stylized looks be it Glenn Close’s perfect nurse’s uniform, John Lithgow’s tough style, or the bespectacled Pooh…plus, you get the great plane into house scene which once again fits the story and tone.

The World According to Garp isn’t for everyone and not everyone will enjoy the dark blend of humor and drama.  With the passing of Robin Williams, this does go down as probably my favorite Robin Williams film and one of his best…if not a little underrated when compared to some of his later Oscar turns.  Garp is a classic and worth revisiting to see a young star just forming.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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