Being There (1979)



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

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Hailed as a genius for his simplistic approach to life, an aging gardener with a childlike naïveté rises, by accident, into the game of politics. The man is soon presented as a possible Presidential candidate although no one knows his true background.
Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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Peter Sellers
as Chance
Shirley MacLaine
as Eve Rand
Melvyn Douglas
as Benjamin Rand
Jack Warden
as President Bobby
Richard Dysart
as Dr. Allenby
Richard Basehart
as Vladmir Skrapinov
Ruth Attaway
as Louise
David Clennon
as Thomas Franklin
Fran Brill
as Sally Hayes
Denise Du Barry
as Johanna Franklin
Brian Corrigan
as Policeman
Alfredine Brown
as Old Woman
Ernest McClure
as Jeffery
Arthur Grundy
as Arthur
Henry B. Dawkins
as Billings
Georgine Hall
as Mrs. Aubrey
Ned Wilson
as Honeycutt
Stanley Grover
as Baldwin
Nell Leaman
as Constance
Paul Marin
as Reporter
Alice Hirson
as First Lady
John Harkins
as Courtney
James Noble
as Kaufman
Sandy Ward
as Sen. Slipshod
William Larsen
as Lyman Stuart
Jerome Hellman
as Gary Burns
Danna Hansen
as Mrs. Slipshod
Arthur Rosenberg
as Morton Hull
Mitch Kreindel
as Dennis Watson
Fredric Lehne
as TV Page
Sam Weisman
as Colson
Elya Baskin
as Karpatov
Gwen Humble
as TV Guest
Melendy Britt
as Sophie
Than Wyenn
as Ambassador Gaufridi
Hanna Hertelendy
as Natasha Skrapinov
Terrence Currier
as Pallbearer
Austin Hay
as Pallbearer
Mark Hammer
as Pallbearer
Maurice Copeland
as Pallbearer
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News & Interviews for Being There

Critic Reviews for Being There

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (6)

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

Full Review… | July 8, 2014
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

A highly unusual and an unusually fine film.

Full Review… | October 31, 2007
Top 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.

Full Review… | October 31, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top 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.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top 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
New York Times
Top 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.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Being There

Hal Ashby somehow manages to rein in the usual all-over-the-mapness of Peter Sellers to deliver this curious, restrained and delightful rumination on a modern day cypher, a blank who cheerfully accepts any definition ascribed to him. Jerry Kozinski's fable rocks as our Nowhere Man somehow stumbles into the very halls of power, into the White House, and all w/o a clue or a care. You decide what's really being said.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


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 naïve, 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.

Dan Schultz
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.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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