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Being There (DE)
DVD disk
02.12.2009 By: J.A. Hamilton
Being There (DE) order
Director:
Hal Ashby

Actors:
Peter Sellers
Shirley MacLaine
Melvyn Douglas

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Chance is a middle aged gardener who has never been outside his employer’s Washington estate. When his employer dies Chance is forced to leave behind the only reality he knows. A twist of fate drops him into the hands of a rich family with presidential ties.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
This is an old movie, but not nearly as difficult to watch as I originally expected. The title BEING THERE is rather fitting of the story’s main character Chance (or Chauncy Gardener as he later becomes) in a couple ways. If life is about being in the right place at the right time, this guy should win the gold medal. However, this likable character is very much “not there” when it comes to his state of mind. You feel sorry for him at first, but find yourself rooting for him and laughing to yourself as his adventure unfolds. Chance looks to be in his late forties with the awareness of a five year old, yet is dressed in the finest of fashion and carries himself like a true gentleman. This is a very touching story of a man who “likes to watch” and lives through his television experiences. He knows only the garden, but still manages to steal the hearts and lift the spirits of all whom he encounters.

Peter Sellers brings Chance to life in such a beautiful way. You can’t help but fall under his spell much like those in the film. I find it a bit sad to know he died a year after this movie was released, but heartwarming that the movie’s main theme “Life is a state of mind” was inscribed upon his tomb just like Ben’s at the end of the movie. Shirley MacLaine played Eve, one half of the prominent couple Chance ends up with. Shirley is a wonderful actress, I really only remember her from POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE and STEAL MAGNOLIAS though I’ll certainly not forget her scene on the bear rug. Melvyn Douglas played Benjamin Rand, the dying husband who embraces Chance like a brother and welcomes him into the family. To be perfectly honest, the only other actor I recognized was Jack Warden who plays the President. And even still, the most recent memory I have of him was from THE REPLACEMENTS with Keanu Reeves. This movie was made in 1979 after all, and I was made in 1977. The cast was terrific (Sellers got a Golden Globe and Douglas an Oscar) and performances were nothing short of spectacular.

Truth be told, I enjoyed this movie. Yes, the ridiculousness of it all is plainly evident as there is no way in hell a simpleton like Chance would just happen to get in with this family, meet the president and inadvertently take the world by storm. I was never truly sure about Chance’s true origins in the film. Was he adopted, purchased on the black market, or dropped off by the stork late one night? They really don’t say. The whole stint with the FBI and journalists trying to do a background check was priceless, though the constant clips of the President in bed with his wife unable to (occupy the oval office) were a little much. The housekeeper’s dialogue (what little there was) is hilarious. And don’t get me started on the whole “walking on water” bit at the end. This movie is great for fans of films that tug on the heartstrings. Not usually my thing, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with a good tug every now and again.
THE EXTRAS
Not much I’m afraid. The theatrical trailer and one Featurette. This film was a pretty big deal, I kinda thought there would be more.

Memories from Being There: Actress Illeana Douglas (Melvyn’s granddaughter) reminisces about her grandfather, their time together when she was growing up, his relationship with Peter Sellers and her love of the film. She is best remembered by me for her role in STIR OF ECHOES as Lisa, the cynical, pot smoking sister in law who hypnotizes Kevin Bacon causing all hell to break loose.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The fact this film was based on a novel gave me hope. It’s not uncommon for novels to get butchered when it comes to action flicks, but dramas usually turn out pretty good. Definitely not a film to instill the flow of adrenaline (thank God for Red Bull) but if depth and profound storytelling are what compels you, BEING THERE is a chance worth taking.
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