Garp aspires to be a writer but it proves not to be so easy when your mother is already a hugely successful feminist author, who actively chose to raise her son as a single parent and now reaches out to distressed women.
In this careful adaptation of John Irving's cultish novel, Williams' gives his least show-offy, most effective "straight" performance to date.
Feminist Close seduces a dying soldier in a World War II hospital so she can have a child but not be encumbered by a husband. The blankly innocent baby grows up (played by Williams) in the shadow of his monstrously successful mother, struggling to carve a separate literary reputation.
George Roy Hill, following his work on Slaughterhouse 5, does a respectful job but opts for a mainstream, realist approach to material that might have profited from a more daring hand. The densely-populated plot (with especially good work from John Lithgow, Hurt, Amanda Plummer and Close) tackles many things (wrestling, history, feminist debate, culture snobbery, family values, sudden disaster, insanity) as it spans the years.
Showing glimpses of what was to come in 'Dead Poets Society' and 'Awakenings', Robin Williams more than holds his own in his first serious role alongside Glenn Close, John Hurt and John Lithgow. But the script might have benefited from being directed by someone more daring, instead George Roy Hill settle for more mainstream territory.