A struggling young writer finds his life and work dominated by his unfaithful wife and his radical feminist mother, whose best-selling manifesto turns her into a cultural icon.A struggling young writer finds his life and work dominated by his unfaithful wife and his radical feminist mother, whose best-selling manifesto turns her into a cultural icon.A struggling young writer finds his life and work dominated by his unfaithful wife and his radical feminist mother, whose best-selling manifesto turns her into a cultural icon.
Should I describe how Garp was born? This is one of the film's many surprises that pop up between two or three 'normal' scenes. But the intriguing parts are indeed so intriguing that we tend to believe this Garp is exceptional, a sort of autistic child floating within his own reverie. The film starts with a memorable animated sequence featuring Garp with his unknown father, a jet-pilot during WWII who died before he was born. While both father and son are fighting in the air a monster-like death, the surrealistic sequence brings some poetry to the movie, illustrating the capacity of a child to conceal hidden wounds through imagination. This is one of the inspirational messages I could relate to : inspiration and imagination do exorcise inner demons, especially during childhood.
Then, when the young Garp turns out to be a wannabe writer, I'm not surprised, but the fact that he is a normal kind of disappoints me. I didn't know what to expect either, with this misleading shot of Robin Williams smiling at the sky. Finally, I'm glad he was a rather nice and serious guy, I don't think I could have endured the typical Robin Williams for two hours. Maybe it's the title that misled me, referring to the world rather than "Garp", it's not even the world from his perspective, but simply the world that revolves around him. Garp is not a passive person although he has one characteristic that undermines his freedom of acts, the mother's influence. Glenn Close plays a strong-willed, independent nurse, with an ambiguous relationship with her son, angry when he lusts toward his future wife, played by Mary Beth Hurt, and eager to follow him to discover the world. She's supportive and caring but maybe a bit too much.
And when Garp decides to become a writer, his turning point strangely coincides with his mother's. Since nothing special happened to him so far, he writes about his mother, what she totally disapproves stating that only she has the right to write about herself. Then Garp becomes a fictional writer, specializing on short stories, and Jenny writes a feminist manifesto based on her own experience and titled "Sexual Suspects". Inspired from her own experience and many encounters in the big city, Jenny became a political phenomenon, a cult idol, while Garp, less successful but more critically praised can only resign to the satisfaction of being a writer, and at least, being as successful as a family man. After all, who can complain about accomplishing a personal dream and being able to live through it?
And it's at that point that no matter how disjointed and peculiar some scenes were, I was immersed in the story of Garp following the little world of so many memorable characters. Those who stick to mind are Roberta, an ex-football athlete who became a woman: John Lithgow is absolutely remarkable, beyond believability, what starts as a gag turns out to be a poignant and sweet performance, Roberta is immediately accepted by the family, by Garp, and Lithgow has such a way to play it, we never feel it unrealistic. There is also 'Poo', the sister of Garp's childhood love-life, a jealous mute girl characterized by big horn-rimmed glasses and an incapability to smile, to life and in general , the closest figure to an antagonist, her appearances suggest a misfortune to happen, but the film is so full of them that we're never really off-guard and always expect a disaster to happen.
There is also a very interesting sub-story involving a group of feminist who called themselves, the Ellen Jamesians in homage to Ellen James, a young girl who was not only raped, but had her tongue cut-off by her rapists so she wouldn't give her names. To Garp's big shock, the feminist voluntarily cut their tongue, An act of desperate unison rather than self-mutilation, but the way Garp perceives it, these women are dangerous. Never judgmental, the film allows us to make up our own opinions: ,adultery is also a recurrent theme, and the victims are not innocent. The film is a chronicle of things happening, and connecting to each other, for the best and sometimes for the worse, and for a worse that can be devastating or hilarious. George Roy Hill's direction, either deliberately or not, use a lot of suspense without forcing.
And oddly enough, it's because we feel bad omens and sad events that were grabbed to the story and enjoy the little moments of joy and tenderness. The movie teases our emotions but never forcing them, it also never patronizes us, but it's full of some insights. It kind of reminded me of "Forrest Gump" without the Pop-culture thing, a sort of picaresque journey within one's own world, indeed "The World according to Garp". Robin Williams delivers one of his best performances, in all nuance and sobriety, while it's Glenn Close and John Lithgow who steal the show.
And still, I feel I have to watch it again the film is one strange adventure into life that deserves probably more than one viewing, I'm not sure I will find more answers, but there are some characters' motives that are still mysterious to me, and "The World According to Garp" is definitely worthy for more recognition.
- Apr 29, 2013