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.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 52

92%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 25,035
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Being There Photos

Movie Info

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.

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Cast

Melvyn Douglas
as Benjamin Rand
Jack Warden
as President Bobby
Richard Dysart
as Dr. Allenby
Richard Basehart
as Vladmir Skrapinov
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
Ned Wilson
as Honeycutt
Georgine Hall
as Mrs. Aubrey
Nell Leaman
as Constance
Paul Marin
as Reporter
John Harkins
as Courtney
Alice Hirson
as First Lady
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
Elya Baskin
as Karpatov
Gwen Humble
as TV Guest
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 (52) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (3)

  • 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.

    Apr 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.

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

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

    Oct 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.

    Oct 31, 2007 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Chris Auty

    Time Out
    Top Critic

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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