The World According to Garp (film)

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The World According to Garp
1982Garp film movieposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Roy Hill
Produced by George Roy Hill
Screenplay by Steve Tesich
Based on The World According to Garp
by John Irving
Cinematography Miroslav Ondricek
Edited by Stephen A. Rotter
Warner Bros.
Pan Arts
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • July 23, 1982 (1982-07-23)
Running time
136 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17 million
Box office $29,712,172

The World According to Garp is a 1982 American comedy-drama film produced and directed by George Roy Hill, written by Steve Tesich, and starring Robin Williams in the title role. It is based on the novel The World According to Garp by John Irving. For their roles, John Lithgow and Glenn Close were respectively nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 55th Academy Awards.


T. S. Garp is the illegitimate son of a feminist mother, Jenny Fields, who wanted a child but not a husband. A nurse during World War II, she encounters a dying ball turret gunner known only as Technical Sergeant Garp (that being the only sound he is able to utter) who was severely brain damaged in combat. Unconstrained by convention and driven by her desire for a child, Jenny is able to rape Garp due to his priapism, thus impregnating herself. She names the resultant child after Garp and raises him on her own.

Garp grows up, becoming interested in wrestling and fiction writing, topics his mother has little interest in. Garp's writing piques the interest of the daughter of the school's wrestling coach, Helen Holm. She is wary of him. Jenny also observes Garp's interest in sex in this regard and is intellectually curious about it, having little more than clinical interest in sex herself. She offers to procure a prostitute for Garp. After engaging the two of them in conversation on the subject, Jenny decides to write a book on her observations of lust and human sexuality.

Her book is a partial autobiography called Sexual Suspect, and is an overnight sensation. Jenny becomes a feminist icon. She uses the proceeds from the book to found a center at her home for troubled and abused women and transsexuals. Meanwhile, Garp's first novel is published, which impresses Helen. The two marry and eventually have two children, Duncan and Walt. Garp becomes a devoted parent and successful fiction writer, while Helen becomes a college professor.

Having learned about his wife's infidelity with one of her students, Garp gets into a car accident while his children are riding in the back seat. He crashes into his wife's lover's car, parked in their driveway, while his wife is in the car performing fellatio. As a result, Walt is killed and Duncan suffers an eye injury. Garp, through the aid of his mother, learns to forgive himself and his wife for their fidelity problems. The couple reconcile, and they have a baby daughter named Jenny.

Garp spends time visiting his mother and the people who live at her center, including transsexual ex-football player Roberta Muldoon. He also first hears the story of Ellen James, a girl who was gang raped and then had her tongue cut out so that she could not identify her attackers. Some of the women at Jenny's center are "Ellen Jamesians", women who voluntarily cut out their own tongues as a show of solidarity. Garp is horrified by the practice and learns that the Jamesians have received a letter from Ellen James begging them to stop the practice, but that they have voted to refuse.

Jenny receives credible death threats, because of both her center and her book. To Garp's dismay, she is dismissive of physical danger, and in fact, decides to endorse a politician who supports her message. Garp writes a book about the life of Ellen James. The book is very successful and well-regarded, but is highly critical of the Jamesians. Garp begins receiving death threats of his own from them.

During a political rally, Jenny is shot and killed by an anti-feminist fanatic. The women of Jenny's center hold a memorial for her, but forbid all men from attending. Garp, dressed as a woman, is secreted into the memorial by Muldoon. He is identified by Pooh, a Jamesian he had known when they both were in school. A commotion breaks out, and Garp is in danger of being hurt, until a woman leads him out of the memorial, away from danger, and to a taxi. The woman is Ellen James, who thanks Garp for his book about her. The Jamesians are further outraged that Garp attended the memorial.

Garp returns to his old school as the wrestling coach. One day during practice, Pooh enters the gymnasium and shoots him at close range with a pistol. Garp is airlifted away from the school by helicopter with his wife. He flashes back to an earlier time when his mother would toss him into the air.



The World According to Garp was generally well received by critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 80% based on reviews from 15 critics.[1]

Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, by which he was "entertained but unmoved," three stars as a "palatable" interpretation of the novel, considering it "wonderfully well-written" yet "cruel, annoying and smug," and wrote:

I thought the acting was unconventional and absorbing (especially by Williams, by Glenn Close as his mother, and by John Lithgow as a transsexual). I thought the visualization of the events, by director George Roy Hill, was fresh and consistently interesting. But when the movie was over, my immediate response was not at all what it should have been. All I could find to ask myself was: What the hell was that all about?[2]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that "the movie is a very fair rendering of Mr. Irving's novel, with similar strengths and weaknesses. If the novel was picaresque and precious, so is the film - although the absence of the book's self-congratulatory streak helps the movie achieve a much lighter, more easy-going style."[3]

Film critic Pauline Kael wrote, "There's no feeling of truth in either the book or the movie," and that this "generally faithful adaptation, seems no more (and no less) than a castration fantasy."[4]


  1. ^ "The World According to Garp". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1982). "The World According to Garp". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 3, 2011. 
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 23, 1982). "The World According to Garp (1982)". New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ Kael, Pauline (1984). "Neutered". Taking It All In. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. pp. 376–381. ISBN 0-03-069361-6. 

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