the fresh films reviews

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The World According to Garp (1982)

George Roy Hill 
Garps utrolige verden
136 minutes
George Roy Hill
Robert L. Crawford
Screenwriter (based on the novel by John Irving):
Steve Tesich

Cast includes:

T. S. Garp Robin Williams
Helen Holm Mary Beth Hurt
Jenny Fields Glenn Close
Roberta Muldoon John Lithgow
Mr. Fields Hume Cronyn
Mrs. Fields Jessica Tandy
The Hooker Swoosie Kurtz
Ellen James Amanda Plummer



The novel form shines distinctly through this vivid but restricted and unspontaneous comedy from director George Roy Hill. The source is John Irving's successful book, which arguably dazzled with its beloved characters and tone, but in Hill's film these quirky, charming characters and their ditto lives are scattered as detached vignettes. The film has a segmental charm, but lacks a visionary, relevant center. It seems that Hill has lost track of what made the world of Garp attractive in the first place. He captures the events, but not necessarily the peculiarity of Garp's being. Part of the problem is Robin Williams. Firstly, he's not believable nor youthful enough as a high school kid (the first scenes with the 34-year-old Close mothering the 30-year-old Williams are simply too bizarre), and as the film goes on, he doesn't have the crunch to carry the character.

The World According to Garp has several structural and tonal similarities with the twelve year junior Forrest Gump. They both face the daunting challenge of covering a long life span. In films like these, one will need to skip parts, make choices and fast-forward time. Whether it works or not is decided by how cohesive the director is able to make the chosen segments. Where Forrest Gump unfolds like a life well lived, Garp remains a set of events. They are cohesive from a strictly logico-semantic point of view, but there is no consequential progress in tone and theme.

The film's discussions (mostly concerning lust) might evoke some reaction, but even though there are several interesting characters here, their existence seem more politically than narratively motivated. Irving proposes that men's lust and women's lack of it makes our species' existence highly unlikely, or merely enforced, if you see it mildly. It's as if he lets womanhood take the blame for his puritan upbringing, making the film depressive from more than one point of view. Only Glenn Close sees through this curtailment and gives a wholesome, dedicated performance.

Copyright 16.8.2007 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang