Being There

directed by Hal Ashby
Category: "Drama"
Year of Release:1979
Date Added:04/12/2005
Date Watched:04/21/2005
Description:Starring Peter Sellers as Chance and Shirley MacLaine as Eve Rand.

From imdb: "A simple-minded gardener named Chance has spent all his life in the Washington D.C. house of an old man. When the man dies, Chance is put out on the street with no knowledge of the world except what he has learned from television. After a run in with a limousine, he ends up a guest of a woman (Eve) and her husband Ben, an influential but sickly businessman. Now called Chauncey Gardner, Chance becomes friend and confidante to Ben, and an unlikely political insider."

This is one of Ebert's first 100 "Great Movies".
My Rating:6

Reviews for Being There

Review - Being There

Chance is a simple-minded, illiterate gardener who has spent his entire life working for the “old man.” Gardening and watching TV are the only two things he knows. When the old man dies, Chance is forced out into the world for the first time. He finds himself in a bad neighborhood of Washington D.C. and drifts through the city untroubled by the crime, pollution and chaos around him.

Amazed by his own live-action picture on a large-screen TV in a storefront display, Chance backs into the street and gets hit by a car. The owner, Eve Rand takes him back to her mansion and introduces him to her very rich, very influential, very sick husband, Benjamin Rand. Rand is immediately taken by Chance and interprets his simple comments on gardening to be deep thoughts on economic issues.

When the President visits Rand the next day, Chance is invited. Again, his simple statements are taken as profound philosophy, and the President quotes him in a televised speech the next day. Newspapers, TV stations, the intelligence community and everyone else scramble, without success, to find out his background and credentials.

Meanwhile. Eve is falling in love with Chance and, with the willing approval of her dying husband, tries to seduce him. It doesn’t work, because Chance is too naïve and innocent to notice. When Rand dies, Chance plans on staying on with Eve. Rand’s associates discuss the possibility of backing him for President. Only Rand’s doctor finally figures out that Chance is really the simple gardener he keeps insisting he is.

In the final scene, Chance wanders off during the funeral and walks across the surface of a pond.

• The Mansion used in the movie was The Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina.

• The inscription "Life is a state of mind" is on Rand's tomb and also serves as the last line in the movie. These words were also inscribed on Sellers' own tomb, when he died a year after the movie was released.

The movie, about an innocent man who cannot be corrupted by the evil and politics around him, was interesting. Everyone was so hungry for approval that they interpreted his simple statements as profundities. My interpretation is that Chance was supposed to be a type of Christ — incorruptible, gentle, without a past, and able to walk on water — but it certainly wasn’t the Christ of the Bible.

Review - Being There

The movie, about an innocent man who cannot be corrupted by the evil and politics around him, was interesting. Everyone was so hungry for approval that they interpreted his simple statements as profundities. My interpretation is that Chance was supposed to be a type of Christ — incorruptible, gentle, without a past, and able to walk on water — but it certainly wasn’t the Christ of the Bible.

There were some disturbing scenes: the two Katie mentioned (one, in particular, is over the top); one where a man attempts to seduce him at a party; and a brief one near the beginning that contains a burst of foul language. All of these are included to show how Chance walks through life without being influenced by the evil around him, and from that perspective they are effective, but they don’t make watching the movie any more enjoyable. I found it somewhat slow-moving. I know the pace was supposed to fit in with Chance’s personality, but it was hard to take at times. And there was something about Sellers that made it hard for me to find his role convincing.

One last note: The Rand's house is, in real life, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I've toured the house twice and recognized many of the scenes inside and out.

Comment added by Roger:

I forgot to mention that I laughed out loud at several scenes where people were mistaking Chance's conversation as profound and he was totally unaware of what they thought he was saying.

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