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Being There (1979)

tomatometer

96

Average Rating: 8.5/10
Reviews Counted: 45
Fresh: 43 | Rotten: 2

Smart, sophisticated, and refreshingly subtle, Being There soars behind sensitive direction from Hal Ashby and a stellar Peter Sellers performance.

83

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 1

Smart, sophisticated, and refreshingly subtle, Being There soars behind sensitive direction from Hal Ashby and a stellar Peter Sellers performance.

audience

92

liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 23,926

My Rating

Movie Info

Having lived his life as the gardener on a millionaire's estate, Chance (Peter Sellers) knows of the real world only what he has seen on TV. When his benefactor dies, Chance walks aimlessly into the streets of Washington D.C., where he is struck by a car owned by wealthy Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine). Identifying himself, the confused man mutters "Chance...gardener," which Eve takes to be "Chauncey Gardiner." Eve takes him to her home to convalesce, and because Chance is so well-dressed and

PG,

Drama, Comedy

Apr 3, 2001

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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All Critics (45) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (43) | Rotten (2) | DVD (17)

Here is a comedy that valiantly defies both gravity and the latest Hollywood fashion.

July 8, 2014 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A highly unusual and an unusually fine film.

October 31, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

No one seems to know what to do with the allegorical undertone of Jerzy Kosinski's script, but as a whole this 1979 film maintains a fine level of wit, sophistication, and insight.

October 31, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What emerges in the end is a strange ambiguity of attitude to the American political system and a hollow humour about cultural values. The cinema of cynicism, really.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out | Comments (3)
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Hal Ashby directs Being There at an unruffled, elegant pace, the better to let Mr. Sellers's double-edged mannerisms make their full impression upon the audience.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Satire is a threatened species in American film, and when it does occur, it's usually broad and slapstick, as in the Mel Brooks films. Being There, directed by Hal Ashby, is a rare and subtle bird that finds its tone and stays with it.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Hal Ashby's satirical parable on the way the USA surrenders itself to homespun evangelicalism gives Peter Sellers the role of a lifetime.

July 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

The movie's main effect is to confirm how versatile Sellers has always been.

July 8, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

A Gumpish plot? Perhaps, but Being There is much more subtle and enigmatic than that.

July 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Peter Sellers gives a stellar performance.

January 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Amazingly poignant performance by Peter Sellers.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

a product not of Ashby's essential modesty but of Kosinski's essential egoism.

May 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

If you are going to see only one Peter Sellers movie, see Dr. Strangelove, but if you're going to see two, then Being There also belongs on your must-see list.

April 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide | Comments (3)
Apollo Guide

While the story is utterly ridiculous, since not everyone would be fooled all the time, it still works as a charming work of fiction.

March 5, 2009 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

Sellers uses simple looks and gestures to bring light to some very serious situations. At many points it's like he's in a trance, truly embodying Chance.

February 6, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Views

It's perhaps the great comic actor's most emotionally moving role.

February 6, 2009 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Ground Zero for the cult of Sellers.

February 5, 2009 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

A placid, poignant, well-kept secret of a movie.

February 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Whether Being There is an indictment of our narrow view of the world, a celebration of empty-headedness or all of the above, "Life is a state of mind," and Ashby's film is a gift to treasure. [Blu-ray]

January 31, 2009 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

...one of the shrewdest, funniest, and most touching sociopolitical satires in movie history.

January 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

So anti-Tom Hanks it ain't funny.

February 15, 2008
ColeSmithey.com

Peter Sellers' peculiar talents are ideally suited to the role of the idiot savant, and despite the Oscar going to co-star Douglas, his is the standout performance of a fascinating, funny film.

October 31, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Jerzy Kosinski's modern fable gets a terrific translation to the screen due to his tight screenplay, capable direction by Ashby, and a marvelous performance by Sellers, one unlike any other in his career.

October 31, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Audience Reviews for Being There

An inventive, imaginative, brilliant little film concerning a simple gardener (Peter Sellers) who knows nothing of the outside world, but is forced out one day and through an odd series of circumstances, ends up being a close personal advisor to the President of the United States (Jack Warden). There is quite simply nothing really like this film, as it takes the subject of satire to a whole new level while Sellers na´ve, lovable character remains the anchor that drives the comedy and plot forward. This is a film full of wonder, and the great Sellers turns in one of his most skilled performances ever (in what would also be one of his last before his sudden death). For some, this movie will totally go over your head and you will not understand the comedic aspects that make it a truly special gem, but for others this will really connect. The ending is also absolutely genius too, definitely one of the best endings of all-time. Highly, highly recommended.
August 24, 2014
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Chance has spent his entire life working as a gardener for a millionaire. He has never left the estate. never been for a ride in a car, and all he knows of the outside world is what he has seen on television. That's all he does when not gardening- watch tv. When his benefactor dies, he is thrust out into the world, which becomes a strange and wonderous journey for him, made all the more curious by the fact that he's middle aged and still retains a great sense of childlike innocence and naivety.

This film is based on a novel (with the screenplay penned by the book's author), and it's quite an odd and interesting piece of work. It's also the sort of thing that I think only Peter Sellers and Hal Ashby could really sell and make work. It takes the right kind of touch to pull such a weird thing off, but I'm happy to say they get the job done.

The film is a journey of discovery, as well as a sharp satire about dependence on the media, and just how much it rules our lives. It's a funny film, but also a touch sad. It's also quite beautiful in a poetic kinda of way.In a lot of ways, it's kinda of a fantasy, though it's mostly pretty well (for the most part) grounded in reality. Well, if you can buy into the premise that is.

I enjoyed this film a great deal, but as of now, I don't think this is the masterpiece that others make it out to be. I think I'd need to see this a few more times and really absorb it before I could make that call myself. For the most part I really bought into it, though I had a hard time totally accepting the way people react to Chance and his behavior and way of life.

The perforamnces and cinematography are what really make it work though. Sellers is absolutely brilliant, and I can't think of anyoen else who could pull this off. SHirley MacLaine is also quite good in her role of a woman who takes a liking to Chance. There's some great scenes throughout, but my favorite is the long sequence that shows Chance's first steps out into the larger world abroad. That sequence alone is what had me sold on this movie.

All in all, a fine piece of work, but I'm not really 100% sure what I make of it.. It's odd, and I don't quite get it, yet it means no harm, and is pretty sharp when trying to make a point about life and society.
December 23, 2011
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Innocence, subtlety and a heartful of mirth substantiate this unique movie. Here is an insight unto life and its wonderful, simple truths, despite all the insipidity of modern humanity. For all the movies that only showed me something, this one actually taught me something.
October 31, 2011
Adriel Lim

Super Reviewer

Movies Like Being There

    1. Eve Rand: What do we know of the man? Absolutely nothing. We don't have an inkling of his past. That could be an asset. A man's past cripples him. His background turns into a swamp and invites scrutinity.
    – Submitted by Ana M (8 months ago)
    1. Chance the Gardener: I like to watch.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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