The World According to Garp (film)

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The World According to Garp
1982Garp film movieposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Roy Hill
Produced byGeorge Roy Hill
Screenplay bySteve Tesich
Based onThe World According to Garp
by John Irving
CinematographyMiroslav Ondříček
Edited byStephen A. Rotter
Warner Bros.
Pan Arts
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • July 23, 1982 (1982-07-23)
Running time
136 minutes
CountryUnited States
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 and starring Robin Williams in the title role. Written by Steve Tesich, 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 ("Garp" being all he is able to utter) who was severely brain damaged in combat. Jenny is able to rape Garp due to his constant erection, getting herself pregnant. She names the resultant child after Garp.

Garp grows up, becoming interested in wrestling and fiction writing, topics his mother has little interest in. Garp's writing piques the interest of Helen Holm, the daughter of the school's wrestling coach. She is wary of him. His mother observes his interest in sex and is intellectually curious about it, having little more than clinical interest in sex herself. She interviews a prostitute and offers to hire her for Garp. Immediately after, 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. 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.

Garp spends time visiting his mother and the people who live at her center, including transgender ex-football player Roberta Muldoon. He also first hears the story of Ellen James, a girl who was raped at the age of eleven by two men who then cut out her tongue so that she could not identify her attackers. A group of women represented at Jenny's center, "Ellen Jamesians," 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 they have voted to continue.

Having learned about his wife's infidelity with one of her students, Garp rushes home with his children in the back seat and crashes into his wife's lover's car parked in their driveway, while his wife is in the car performing fellatio on the student. As a result, Walt is killed and Duncan loses an eye. Garp, through the aid of his mother, learns to forgive himself and his wife. The couple reconcile and have a baby daughter they name after Jenny.

Jenny receives death threats because of both her center and her book. To Garp's dismay, she dismisses the danger and decides to publicly endorse a politician who supports her message. Garp writes a book about the life of Ellen James and its aftermath. 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 previously 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 to a taxi. The woman reveals herself to be Ellen James, and uses gesture to thank 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 by helicopter with his wife. He flashes back to an earlier time when his mother would toss him into the air.



Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 80% based on reviews from 15 critics, as of October 2011.[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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