A writer who loves to love life finds himself battling his own
insecurities thanks to his unfaithful wife and feminist icon mother.
The World According to Garp (1982)
Directed by George Roy Hill
Written by Steve Tesich
Starring Robin Williams, Glenn Close, Mary Beth Hurt,
John Lithgow, Mark Soper, Nathan Babcock
Based on the novel by John Irving
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (John Lithgow),
Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close)
Robin Williams was one of those rare performers who could perfectly balance comedy and drama to the point that most of his films dipped into either genre constantly. The World According to Garp is one of his more restrained performances, and it's the glue holding together a joyless, plotless movie that treats major traumatic events like, for example, a child's death as a minor inconvenience in the rocky road of marriage. The characters in this movie are monsters, from infidelity to self-mutilation to more infidelity to raping the near dead. All of that happens in this movie and is treated like, again, minor inconveniences. It's thoroughly insane.
Williams plays T.S. Garp, the wide-eyed son of a radical feminist nurse who raped a nearly dead soldier with a persistent erection because she wanted a baby but didn't want a husband. This is never mentioned again. Garp grows up with a unique way of looking at the world, and he becomes a writer because he falls in love with a future teacher named Helen (Hurt), and she likes writers. Garp and Helen get married, have two kids, and all is well. Until, out of the blue, Garp bangs the babysitter and in turn, Helen sleeps with a student. This infidelity leads to the death of their youngest son when he crashes into the student's car while his wife is blowing the guy in said car. Again, all of this is a minor inconvenience and Garp and Helen reconcile, never mentioning their dead son again. What in the absolute hell? How can anybody think that this is a normal reaction to any of these life-changing events?
The film's strongest aspect is its performances. Robin Williams, Glenn Close, John Lithgow, and Mary Beth Hurt are all fantastic. The screenplay is bonkers, uneven, unrealistic, and at times, hard to get invested in because these characters' actions are the actions of psychopaths. It's not a bad film, though. In fact, if you accept that this is essentially a manifesto disguised as a dramedy, you might like it even more.