THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1982)
Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: A
Duration: 136 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: George Roy Hill
Cast: Robin Williams, Mary Beth Hurt, Glenn Close, John Lithgow, H, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Swoosie Kurtz, James Mccall, Peter Michael Goetz, George Ede, Mark Soper
T.S. Garp (Robin Williams) is the bastard-son of feminist author Jenny Fields (Glenn Close) and this is his story, from the beginning of his life until maybe the end, we follow the youthful exploits of him as an inquisitive young boy, a horny teenager and as a frustrated and horny married man. It has been and probably always will be my favorite performance from the late Robin Williams, a movie that has always touched me, through laughter and through tears in remains a poignant and sweetly dark movie loaded with both saccharine and salt, and it only gets better the older I get.
Garp as a young man is an aspiring writer of sad stories, his writings spur his mother to write about her own life in an autobiographical book she titles 'Sexual Suspect', which finds a home with a small publisher and it unexpectedly becomes an overnight sensation, becoming a feminist manifesto, which attracts all sorts of women, creating a cult around the author, from battered-wife refugees to the transsexual Roberta Muldoon (John Lithgow, Blow Up), a former NFL footballer turned woman, plus a radical cult of women who have cut off their own tongues to protest the rape of a young woman named Ellen James, who was kidnapped and raped, her captors having cut out her tongue so she could not speak their names and identify them. Hearing the story horrifies Garp, that these women would disfigure themselves in such a way deeply disturbs him,and the encounter fuels his next book, which angers his other's supporters, receiving numerous death threats against him.
In Garp's own life he has married his teen-crush Helen Holm (Mary Beth Hurt) and has fathered two loving sons Walt and Duncan, he has his own career as an author but is frustrated that his own career has been overshadowed by his that of his mother, he is commonly identified as "the bastard son of Jenny Field". His marriage faces difficulties, his own wandering eye for the horny babysitter and his wife's attraction to a persistent young graduate student she teaches among them.
There's a wonderful symmetry to the movie, events that happen during Garp's formative years come around again in various ways, during an adolescent semi-sexual encounter with a neighbor girl Garp is bit on the ear by her father's dog, years later Garp takes a chunk out of the same dog's ear, this sort of life-symmetry happens throughout in a myriad of way with a sense of sometimes tragic poetry, such as an early assassination attempt on his mother by an anti-feminist, which is thwarted, but comes back around. There's underlying sense of doom and dread throughout, a scene of Garp's son Walt standing into the ocean mirrors an earlier scene of Garp as a boy, and then there are numerous references by Walt about Death and dying, scenes I hadn't noticed in my youth but which sent shivers down my spine this time around
I do believe this was the feature film debut of actress Glenn Close who turns in a brilliant performance as the feminist writer Jenny Fields, her matter-of-fact approach to feminism and child rearing is odd, her approach to sex is clinical and detached, the story of how she came to be pregnant with Garp is quite a story, one she reveals to a shocked older gentleman as she explaining how she cam to be preggers without the baggage of having to be a married woman, by raping a near comatose patient during WWII, one with a handy hard-on which made mounting easy.
Garp as portrayed by Robin Williams is so damn relateable, he cuts to the center of the everyman in a way that Williams was so very good at, he could always find human-center of any character, through his acting told a truth and never more so than as the bastard son of Jenny Field. His character loves being a father and wears his worry for their well being of his on his sleeve, which I can now appreciate as a father, when I first saw it these scenes as a kid they were touching but didn't resonate with me that way they do now. I certainly shed a few tears watching it this time around, i is still deeply affecting.
Eagle eyed viewers might recognize actor Brandon Maggart from the cult-classic Christmas Evil (1980) as Helen's father, the wrestling coach, and he also happens to be the father of singer Fiona Apple. Lithgow's performance as an transsexual former star athlete seems so prescient watching it now in the era of Bruce Jenner turned Caitlyn Jenner, that the sensationalism of it at the time n the early was so downplayed here also seems so progressive, it also serves to heighten the humor of the line, "I mean, I had mine removed surgically under general anesthesia. But to have it bitten off in a Buick..." with the character referencing the unfortunate outcome of a poorly timed blow-job, in a rather tragic scene.
Audio/Video: The World according to Garp (1982)looks superb on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive. Colors are nicely saturated, there's a layer of film grain, black levels are deep and the skin tones look accurate. The English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo soundtrack exports audio nicely, dialogue, score and sound effects are crisp and clean without any distortion, optional English subtitles are provided. There are no extras on the disc which is pretty standard for the Warner Archive MOD titles.
This is not a film I can approach on a genuine clinical level, I saw it in my youth at a very formative time, I found it deeply affecting then, at a time I could not fully appreciate the more sophisticated and adult-oriented subject matter, and I only appreciate it more now with each passing year as the themes become more poignant and personal, and that is the mark of not just a good movie, but a truly great movie, it becomes more meaningful with age. Another great title comes to Blu-ray from Warner Archive, a movie that seems all the more poignant as I grow older and with the passing of it's star Robin Williams, highly recomended. 4.5/5