I tracked down two interesting looks at the film courtesy of a 1985 article in "Literature In Film Quarterly" by Edward T. Jones, and the John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh edited "Novels Into Films".
Here are some of the interesting insights on Richardson's work that the two offered.
"The distinguishing motif in both the novel and the film is magical transformation, of life becoming art, presented with comic-elegiac tenderness, even innocence, in the midst of brutal action and language...Richardson retains Irving's structural design of the novel...more remarkably (he) keeps the novel's central metaphors in the much more literal texture of the film...Richardson retains at least some of Irving's literary allusion...Richardson has captured, albeit not perfectly, the contradictions and circularity of THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE by means which are his own and film's...(he) finds the symbols from the novel to represent both the art and life. Critics of the film seem to think that he should have transcended Irving's conditions and limitations. That Tony Richardson's invention does not presume beyond his literary source is curiously touching, and effect."
"Richardson's attempted to be both free and faithful to the story, in part he succeeded, to a degree not achieved, in many viewer's judgement, in George Roy Hill's more popular adaptation of Irving's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. Richardson's large cast is extremely well chosen...Lowe's John was more often, and perhaps unfairly, criticized...since he has to play a realist in a family of dreamers and would-be artists...Critics were not kind to Richardson's film, but the director rendered fairly well the axiom of the novel's King of Mice: Life is serious but art is fun."
-Tibbetts + Welsh-
It was very nice to read some positive thoughts towards Richardson's flawed but interesting film. It made me feel not completely alone in my admiration for it.