George Roy Hill’s film adaptation of [John Irving’s novel] The World According to Garp has taste, intelligence, craft and numerous other virtues going for it.
Tale is that of young Garp, bastard son of independent-minded nurse Jenny Fields, who, at midlife, becomes a media celebrity upon the publication of her autobiographical tome, A Sexual Suspect.
Garp grows up in a placid academic environment, and the grown man in the person of Robin Williams appears only after 25 minutes. He meets and marries Mary Beth Hurt, raises his family, fitfully pursues his writing while she teaches, has skirmishes with the feminists at his mother’s mansion, and all the while tries to avoid the ‘undertoad’, the unseen, pervasive threat which lurks everywhere and strikes without warning.
Physically, Williams is fine, but much of the performance is hit-and-miss. Otherwise, casting is superior. Hurt is excellent as Garp’s wife. Glenn Close proves a perfect choice as Jenny Fields, a woman of almost ethereal simplicity. Best of all, perhaps, is John Lithgow as Roberta Muldoon, a former football player, now a transsexual.
1982: Nominations: Best Supp. Actor (John Lithgow), Supp. Actress (Glenn Close)