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Being There

134 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Richard Dysart
  • Directors: Hal Ashby
  • Writers: Jerzy Kosinski, Robert C. Jones
  • Producers: Andrew Braunsberg, Charles Mulvehill, Jack Schwartzman
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • MPAA Rating: PG
  • Studio: Warner
  • VHS Release Date: Feb. 5 2002
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6301590740
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,193 in Video (See Top 100 in Video)
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Product Description

Thanks to an extraordinary, delicately balanced performance by Peter Sellers, Being There received mixed reviews during its theatrical release in 1979, but has since become a celebrated comedy with a loyal following. It's one of the most unusual black comedies ever made, simply because it stretches a simple premise over 130 minutes of straight-faced, strangely compelling commentary on politics, media, and celebrity in media-savvy America. Adapted by Jerzy Kozinsky from his own novel, the movie's about a simple-minded, middle-aged gardener who, after a lifetime of seclusion and safety in a Washington, D.C. townhouse, gets his first exposure to reality beyond the walls of his sheltered existence. His only reference to the world is through his childlike addiction to television, and when a chance encounter brings him into the inner fold of a dying billionaire (Melvyn Douglas), he suddenly finds himself the toast of Washington's political elite. His simple phrases about gardening are misinterpreted as anything from economic predictions to sage political advice, and under the sharp direction of Hal Ashby, Sellers has the audacity to take this comedic conceit to its logical extreme. Being There is not for all tastes--especially not for those who don't appreciate comedic subtlety. But as a showcase for the daring genius of Peter Sellers, this is a classic movie in a category all its own. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Sept. 10 2003
Format: DVD
All I can say is the final shot is a masterpiece of cinema. To convey the entire theme of a film in one single shot, in such an understated and almost off-handed way, is nothing short of filmmaking genius. The film would have been memorable without it, but it's this final icing on the cake that just floored me.
I can only wonder how long it took director Hal Ashby to dream it up, because I read the original script and it only ends with Peter Sellers walking away from the funeral and tending to a broken tree. Ashby must have had a brainstorm on the set and it was a brilliant one. Watching Peter Sellers walk on water -- as we hear the President end his eulogy with the words: "Life is a state of mind" so effortlessly sums everything up it's almost frightening. When I saw it, I had to rewind the DVD at least five or six times just to savior the meaning. You just don't see that kind of thing in movies anymore.
And to those who think it's some sort of Christ metaphor, I take exception and I think the President's dialogue supports me. The final shot is simply saying that Sellers' character was never told you couldn't do all these amazing things; his childlike innocence was never diluted by doubts about what can and can't be accomplished in this world -- even impossible things like walking on water. He doesn't know it's impossible because no one told him. Indeed, life is a state of mind, and I think thats a mighty powerful idea all on its own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Old Film Lover on Oct. 27 2014
Format: DVD
This Warner DVD of Being There (1979) contains the full-length version of the film, in widescreen (the original film format).

The image and sound are good. The colours are fairly vivid, though perhaps not as vivid as the film originally looked on the screen.

This "Deluxe" edition is not so deluxe -- the only extras are a trailer and a short "remembering Being There" piece which is mainly an interview with actress Illeana Douglas, granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas (who won the Best Supporting Actor award for the film). This feature is good and informative, but limited compared to a commentary; and while Douglas gives some interesting insights into her grandfather, we don't get much insight into the film itself. One would think that for a film as recent as 1979 there would still be people alive who could provide a commentary, or at least some short features.

The scene menu is better than most, with 36 stops, making the intervals shorter than 4 minutes, which is handy.

The details of the movie itself I won't discuss because all the other reviewers will have covered that. I'll just make the general comment that I hadn't seen the movie since 1979 when it came out, and I think it still holds up today, 35 years later. Camera work, music, script are all excellent, as is the acting not only of the leads but all the supporting players. The IMDb voters give this film an average of 8.0; arguably it deserves more than that, something approaching a 9.0.

This DVD can still be obtained fairly cheaply, directly from Amazon, and from affiliated merchants. Now would be the time to grab it if you have never seen it and want to put your toe in the water in the most inexpensive way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hale & Hardy TOP 500 REVIEWER on Nov. 10 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Seeing this film again after so many years really made me appreciate just what a marvelous actor Peter Sellers was. We lost the Master very suddenly and there will never be anyone like him.

Playing a straight-man is hard work, especially when he must also play the part with such innocence and subdued intelligence. What makes this so entertaining are the reactions of those around "Chance" (or Chauncy) particularly the President and his cohorts. It's beautiful that only one person is actually "clued in" by the end of the film, and he's smart enough to leave well enough alone.

I won't give anything away here, suffice to say this is the pinnacle of Peter Sellers's skills as an actor, as clearly illustrated by the one scene's outtakes during the credits. It was the only scene that he could not do with a straight face and shows just how much of a character Peter Sellers truly was.

Enjoy the film. :-)
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By Steven Aldersley TOP 50 REVIEWER on Feb. 29 2012
Format: Blu-ray
Being There (1979)
Drama, Comedy, 130 minutes
Directed by Hal Ashby
Starring Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine and Melvyn Douglas

Being There is an unusual movie which is told in an understated way. The events unfold slowly and the viewer is left to reflect on any meaning. Peter Sellers stars as Chance. He tends the garden of an old man and is left homeless when the man dies. The relationship is never explained. Is he the man's son?

The story takes off when Chance leaves the comfort of the only surroundings he has ever known and enters the real world. He is a simple man and apparently doesn't understand the concept of lying. When someone tells him anything, he takes it literally. He suffers a minor injury when a car hits him and the owner, Eve (MacLaine), offers to have him checked out by her doctor.

Although Chance knows nothing of the real world and just talks about his former job as a gardener, others take his words to heart and think that he's using metaphors. It's funny to see how much of an impact his innocent remarks have on the people around him.

Sellers was nominated for his performance and Melvyn Douglas won an Oscar for his portrayal of Eve's dying husband.
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