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.||
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
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
7.1 Dead Again
7.3 The Fisher King
5.4 Shakes the Clown
6.4 Mrs. Doubtfire
4.8 Being Human
5.2 Nine Months
5.5 To Wong Foo, Thanks for the Memories, Julie Newmar
6.5 The Birdcage
5.4 The Secret Agent
4.6 Fathers Day
7.0 Deconstructing Harry
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.
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.
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