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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-8 of 8 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on February 14, 2003
Hal Ashby's "Being There" is often referred to in the same breath as "Forrest Gump" (1994) due to the similarity of each film's lead character. However, close inspection of both films reveal that there is little in common besides the surface similarity. "Being There" is a story of a man who does not evolve as he goes through life. The character of Chance (Peter Sellers) is the exact same person he was when the film began as he is when it ends, and audiences are left with a tantalizing final image as to the meaning of this "stagnant" growth. Is Chance canonized because of his uncompromising purity? Or is Chance beyond evolving further because he is already something much more than the rest of us? Or perhaps the final image is only an illusion - we think we are seeing what we see in much the same way that Chance's words of wisdom were thought to mean something else. It is this open-endedness that distinguishes "Being There" as a film all its own.
The film follows the exploits of Chance "Chauncey Gardener," a simple gardener who is thrown out into the street after his employer passes away. Chance is hopelessly ignorant of how the world works and is immediately dumbfounded upon meeting a group of potential muggers. He casually points a television remote at them and tries to click them away and is confused when they refuse to disappear. This incident soon leads to a meeting with a millionaire's wife (Shirley MacLaine) who takes him to meet her husband (Melvyn Douglas). The millionaire becomes mesmerized by Chance's honesty and straightforwardness and soon Chance is moving in powerful circles, rubbing shoulders with the most powerful people in the world.
The catch throughout the entire film is that all of the people who come into contact with Chance (except for a doctor who ultimately figures things out) misinterpret his simple remarks as profound words of wisdom. This running joke might seem outrageous and broad but when you consider the volume of "talking heads" and "sound bites" that have permeated the public consciousness in the current day, then this film comes across more as prophetic than satiric. Sellers' single note performance is a wonder to behold. He manages to create genuine affection for his character without resorting to making viewers feel sorry for him. Chance always maintains an air of dignity that prevents him from turning into a sympathetic figure. Watching this master actor apply himself would have been reason enough to see this film, but the added "questions" evoked by its closing image makes watching the film an even more worthwhile endeavor. You'll be thinking about for a few days after seeing it.
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on December 19, 1999
What starts out as a potentially amusing satire degenerates into a one-joke movie with nothing original to say. Politics, especially the American variety, parodies itself well enough without needing sophomore films like this to repeat the obvious. What saves this film is a good performance by Peter Sellers playing the simple-minded gardener propelled to fame by a series of coincidences. The best parts are where Ashby gets off his high horse, stops preaching to the converted, and instead lets Sellers loose to come up with some cracking gags:
Gay sophisticate at washington party (to Sellers): "Have you ever had sex with a man?"
Sellers (confused): "I like to watch" (he means TV!)
Gay guy (surprised) "Ah! I'll get Warren..."
And who can forget the classic scenes between repressed politician's wife Shirley McLaine and Sellers in the bedroom?
Apart from that though, I had to say the film was a disappointment. The rest of the characters are just cardboard cutouts, especially the president and his "fixer". Worth seeing, just don't expect any great shakes. Ashby is a very overrated director in my opinion.
If you want to see Sellers at his best, you know where to look: "dah dum...dah dum...dah dum, dah dum, dah dum, dah dum, da da-aahhhh, da da dum" - the "Pink Panther" of course!
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on April 11, 2003
Peter Sellers plays a man who lives in Washington DC. The owner of the big home he lives in has passed away. Peter Sellers has never been in an automobile and has never been outside the front door, out on the street or in the city before. He has only been a gardner for the property of the house and only watches television. In the house, there is a television set in every room, including the greenhouse. When he finally realizes he must leave the house, he enters the world for the first time. He sees a tv set in a window of a shop and just watches it. When a car backs up to him, it pins him between cars. Here he meets Shirley MacLaine. She decides to take him to her mansion to get the hospital care he needs. She is living with the Vice-President. Shirley MacLaine is lovely and delightful in this film. There are lots of old tv clips of shows you will remember. There is a blooper reel during the end credits.
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on May 3, 1999
"Being There" is a movie that has the potential to be a witty statement about our culture, but instead, ends up failing to live up to it's expectations.
The movie has Peter Sellers playing a simpleton who ends up befriending some rich and powerful people and becoming a national celebrity. The humour of the movie comes from the fact that the simple things that Sellers character says are misinterpreted as brilliant observations.
With that intriguing premise, the movie is off to a great start, but unfortunately, the picture never goes anywhere after this setup. The film, simply recycles this same idea over and over again until the film's ending. The viewer keeps expecting the picture to take off and go somewhere talking about American culture, or the media's fascination with celebrities, but it does'nt seem to have anything to say. What a shame.
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on August 29, 2000
This film did not make sense to me until the jaw-dropping ending (a complete surprise in an otherwise tepid film). I am always mystified that some people do not seem to grasp the significance of the final scene. I won't divulge it, and there are spoilers elsewhere in these reviews, so I'll just say that if you liked Forrest Gump, watch this movie and decide for yourself. In my opinion the ending explains the entire film, and had I not watched the film thru the end I would have come away dissatisfied, as the rest of the film is not enough.
Some reviewers have said that the point of the film is that a simple life is better. I say that the point of the film is that we all "know too much." As Yoda says, "You must unlearn what you have learned."
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on February 6, 2001
Peter Sellers stars in this smart black comedy that reflects how easily people are influenced by the media in today's world. Sellers is top notch with his role as the silent, innocent gardner who had led a sheltered life in his employers estate until one fateful day he died. Sellers is thrown onto the street and eventually becomes good friends with America's well-to-do. All in all, some good laughs, smart remarks and a fair supporting cast. The length takes some points off, unfortunatly.
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on February 8, 2004
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on February 29, 2004
The title of this movie may be "Being There" but the plot isn't there at all. Shirley MacLaine and Peter Sellers team up to form the story of a man who has been a gardener all his life that suddenly shows up on Maclaine's doorstep. Maclaines husband, dying from aplastic anemia, likes the man, and so they take him in. His name is Chance, but Shirley mistakenly mistakes if for Chauncy, hence the name, Chauncy Gardener becomes this man's own. No one seems to realize the man is a simple minded child, and he even gets to meet the President of the United States and go on a TV show. It is obvious to the most casual observer that "Chauncy" is simple minded, probably even retarded, but not obvious to anyone in the film. Because of this, the film lacks reality and the acting is flat.
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