Being There (1979)

Peter Sellers as Chance the gardener.

Peter Sellers as Chance the gardener.

Being There is one of those movies that everyone loves, if, of course, they’ve seen it. I remember renting it a very long time ago, and vaguely remember watching it. I do remember not thinking too much of it at all. When I tell people this, the response is usually utter shock: how could you not love this movie? So I decided it was time to give it another go, and I am glad I did.

Chance (Peter Sellers) is a mentally-challenged gardener. He’s lived in the same house in Washington, DC for decades, but it all falls apart when his employer passes away. Chance is told by some lawyers he has to leave the estate, and is set loose on the city all alone for the first time in his entire life. Not knowing where to

Shirley MacLaine is pretty great.

Shirley MacLaine is pretty great.

go or what to do, Chance wanders around all day until a limo driver accidentally backs into him and hurts his leg. Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine), wife of the extremely wealthy, powerful and influential businessman Benjamin Rand, insists they take Chance back to their mansion and have her husband’s personal doctors take a look at the injury, in hopes of avoiding a PR nightmare.

It’s through this accident that Chance, or Chauncey, as Eve believes his name to be, winds up in the spotlight. Chance’s simple musings, often lifted from the television shows that have been his only company for the last few decades, are mistaken for deep, profound wisdom. Hilarity ensues when the president names Chauncey Gardener as the gentleman who helped him figure out how to deal with America’s financial crisis. Editors of the Washington Post are trying to find information on Chauncey Gardener, but of course, none exists. The

Eve has a real thing for "Chauncey," but all he really cares about is changing the channel.. .

Eve has a real thing for “Chauncey,” but all he really cares about is changing the channel.. .

president’s speech launches Chance into political orbit without him understanding what’s happening around him in the slightest.

This is a movie about how people hear the things they want to hear. Washington DC is certainly home to its own unique brand of self-absorption, and so is the perfect setting for this kind of tale. The world of politics is a world where everyone has secrets, everyone is someone, and everyone talks in code, and so is a fertile place for the seeds of misunderstanding to take hilarious root. The idea that the folks that run our country are so easily duped is something we’re all familiar with on some level, but to see it played out so well on the screen is pretty thought-provoking.

So, everyone was right; this movie is fantastic. I’m not sure how I missed it the first time!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Old Wave


%d bloggers like this: