Being There 1979

Being There

Critics Consensus

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

95%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 56

92%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 25,108

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Movie Info

Simple-minded Chance (Peter Sellers), a gardener who has resided in the Washington, D.C., townhouse of his wealthy employer for his entire life and been educated only by television, is forced to vacate his home when his boss dies. While wandering the streets, he encounters business mogul Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas), who assumes Chance to be a fellow upper-class gentleman. Soon Chance is ushered into high society, and his unaffected gardening wisdom makes him the talk of the town.

Cast & Crew

Peter Sellers
Chance ('Chauncey Gardiner')
Jack Warden
President 'Bobby'
Melvyn Douglas
Benjamin Turnbull Rand
Richard Dysart
Dr. Robert Allenby
Richard Basehart
Vladimir Skrapinov
David Clennon
Thomas Franklin
Hal Ashby
Director
Charles Mulvehill
Associate Producer
Jack Schwartzman
Executive Producer
Johnny Mandel
Original Music
Caleb Deschanel
Cinematographer
Don Zimmerman
Film Editor
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News & Interviews for Being There

Critic Reviews for Being There

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (3)

  • Gently directed by Hal Ashby, this satire of a ruling class in which nobody knows anything is almost plausible, and certainly topical.

    January 17, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Ed Potton

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • A brutal look at America and Americans that gently lifts up the mirror image that television gives us of ourselves, smashes it on the marble floors of our political institutions and holds a chunk of jagged glass to our throats. And then makes us laugh.

    April 28, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Sellers has never been better and he embellishes the detached, childlike innocence of this character with perfect style and timing. It's a deceptively simple performance, but it is essentially the core and substance of the film.

    December 19, 2016 | Full Review…
  • Here is a comedy that valiantly defies both gravity and the latest Hollywood fashion.

    July 8, 2014 | Full Review…
  • A highly unusual and an unusually fine film.

    October 31, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    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.

    October 31, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Being There

  • Aug 28, 2016
    One of the great satires. It's critiques of media and politics are still relevant, and while that shouldn't matter I think it speaks to the brilliance of the screenplay. Sellers' work is remarkably subtle, an important reminder that he was more than just a gifted comic performer.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 02, 2015
    Subtle and brilliant, Hal Ashby's prescient comedy may've bowed during the Me Generation, but it packs more of an ironic punch and makes even more sense today. A film like Being There never happens by accident. The narrative and presentation prove so mannered that you begin to wonder if the writer-director himself shouldn't be afforded the same godly status that sometimes gets ascribed to the main character. Even his name, Chance, holds a great deal of wink wink knowingness, as an accelerated and cynical culture accidentally turns this seemingly simplistic man into a pariah. The film's commentary on media addiction and political spin doctoring perhaps grabs latecomers the most, however, pre-dating our current society in which we largely communicate and gather information and opinions through multiple screens. Even though it arrived in cinemas at the end of the '70s, the film earns a top spot during both the Easy Riders-Raging Bull Generation AND still today. In this PG-rated comedy, a sheltered gardener (Peter Sellers) becomes an unlikely trusted adviser to a powerful businessman (Melvyn Douglas, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) and an insider in Washington politics. Without a brave and letter perfect lead performance, however, Being There wouldn't work on any of these meta-levels. Having an actor known mostly for absurdist comedy take on this one-note yet endlessly complex figure is brash enough. Pulling through with the apathetic mimicry needed to sell through this right-place/right time stooge is another thing altogether. Peter Sellers was called many things but genius is the one that's wholly agreed upon. His brash director, Hal Ashby, likewise earns this status--if not just for this, then for his entire CV (Harold and Maude, Shampoo, The Last Detail, Coming Home). Finding inquisitive angles to spy these goings-on while letting a lot of the action play out in long takes (with cinematographer Caleb Deschanel brilliantly helping to set the mood and tone), you get caught up in the hypnotic spin as much as the supporting characters. If it doesn't play well for every last modern filmgoer, afflicted as they are with a gnat's attention span, it's not Being There's fault for Being Square. It's simply too smart for some rooms. Bottom line: There, And Back Again
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 24, 2014
    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 S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 16, 2012
    A hilarious dark comedy that also works as a smart, timely, and thought provoking political satire. Peter Sellers was excellent, as was the entirety of the cast, complemented by a strong, intelligent, and subtle script. This is the sort of unique comedy that we just donâ(TM)t get anymore. Recommended for anyone thatâ(TM)s a fan of political satire and especially Peter Sellers.
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer

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