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Being There

Peter Sellers , Shirley MacLaine , Hal Ashby    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   VHS Tape
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)

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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

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That famous ending Sept. 10 2003
By A Customer
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Sellers was the best! Nov. 10 2009
By Hale & Hardy TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and haunting..... May 31 2004
By D. Pawl
Format:VHS Tape
This film is like none I have ever seen before. In the past, when I thought of Peter Sellers (who plays lead character "Chance the Gardener"), my mind automatically went to Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series. I thought of the bumbling, clumsy and silly detective in hot persuit of the pink panther jewel. What a terrific change of pace! I really got a sense of Peter Sellers' depth as an actor in this brilliant film. Sellers, Melvyn Douglas, and Shirley Maclaine were all strong leads in this story, along with a great supporting cast.
BEING THERE tells the story of Chance, the Gardener, a simple man who spends his entire life gardening in the backyard of his boss' house, until one day the old man passes away. When a couple of journalists come around to find out more about the former master of the house, Chance is the only one there. The house must close, and for the first time the man must make strides into the big, wide world. This world is like nothing he could have ever imagined outside of the house where he worked. One thing that keeps him tranquil and holds his attention is the television. As Chance says, "I like to watch." (this line is misinterpreted a few times during the course of the movie.) By chance, Chance meets up with Shirley Maclaine the wife of an elderly billionaire. This is just the beginning of an intriguing series of events where Chance--renamed Chauncey Gardner--the simple man who speaks of plants and their growth (the only real knowledge he has about the world) becomes central as wise sage in one of the most intriguing political ventures.
This film has moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, and serious elements as well. (The final scene is chilling.....that is all I am going to say......)
Check it out if you are in the mood for something completely different. In the words of Chauncy, this is definitely a film "I like to watch."
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Terrific movie! watchedg. it twice in two days. Great filming.
Published 17 days ago by Ron Cowin
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent movie for adults. Subtly hillarious. (Most children...
Peter Sellers' last movie. You can check the plot on IMDB or Wikipedia, so I won't cover that. The quality of the blu-ray is excellent. The acting is really excellent. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Keith Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't believe I bought such an old movie...
And yet I can't believe this movie is better than nearly every other movie out there.

I imagine everyone who took part in Forrest Gump was instructed to watch this film. Read more
Published 7 months ago by B.L
2.0 out of 5 stars weird
I know I'm swimming upstream against the flow of positive reviews, but I really didn't like this movie. It seemed quite creepy to me. Read more
Published 11 months ago by George Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars peter sellers is great
great film, peter sellers is awesome in the lead and really makes you wonder... i recommend it to all, in fact i recommend it to all schools as mandatory so all kids could... Read more
Published 18 months ago by F. Marra
5.0 out of 5 stars Sellers shines
Being There (1979)
Drama, Comedy, 130 minutes
Directed by Hal Ashby
Starring Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine and Melvyn Douglas

Being There is an unusual... Read more
Published on Feb. 29 2012 by Steven Aldersley
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Sellers Best Screen Performance
I discovered this film only 7 years ago when I caught the Peter Sellers Bug after watching "The Party". Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2011 by Miracle Max
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Sellers Best Screen Performance........ Hands Down
I discovered this film only 7 years ago when I caught the Peter Sellers Bug after watching "The Party". Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2011 by Miracle Max
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and unique
Sellers plays a man who is a complete blank, seemingly mentally handicapped, having spent his whole life working as a
gardener, his only real enjoyment being watching TV. Read more
Published on June 6 2011 by K. Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and unique
Sellers plays a man who is a complete blank, seemingly mentally handicapped, having spent his whole life working as a
gardener, his only real enjoyment being watching TV. Read more
Published on June 6 2011 by K. Gordon
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