The 1982 film version of the John Irving novel The World According to Garp attempts to captures the quirky spirit while condensing the Irving original. Robin Williams plays the title character, the son of unmarried, unorthodox feminist Jenny Fields (Glenn Close, in her film debut).
Every effort made by Jenny to broaden Garp's outlook on life -- she even arranges for him to spend the night with a hooker (Swoosie Kurtz) -- crams more fears and phobias into his psyche. Aspiring to become a novelist, Garp succeeds in this goal at the same time that his mother publishes her first feminist manifesto.
Though successful and happily married to college sweetheart Helen Holm (Mary Beth Hurt), Garp remains envious of his fearless mother, who has taken in the radical Ellen Jamesians, a group named after a young woman who had her tongue cut out by a rapist.
Mutilation, in fact, becomes something of a leitmotif in Garp's life, climaxing (in every sense of the word) in an auto accident brought about by Helen's tryst with Michael Milton (Mark Soper).
There is, of course, much more to the story than this: standing out amongst the dozens of offbeat supporting characters is John Lithgow as Roberta Muldoon, a transexual ex-football jock. John Irving appears as a referee during a college wrestling match, while director George Roy Hill plays the pilot whose low-flying plane crashes into Garp's new home.
The World According to Garp didn't attract as large an audience as other, more conventional Robin Williams vehicles, though Close and Lithgow would both be nominated for Best Supporting Actor statues.