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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Being There (1979) - Comedy Satire

Being There (1979) - Peter Sellers was nominated for an academy award for his portrayal of Chance (Chauncey Gardiner) a simpleton gardener who has lived inside the walls of his rich mans home all his life. When the old man dies he is sent out into the world armed only with his knowledge of it gleaned from watching television. As fate would have it Chance is struck by a car of a wealthy woman Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine) and brought back to her mansion to be cared for. Her husband Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas) a dying super influential businessman and advisor to the President (Jack Warden). His doctor Dr. Robert Allenby (Richard Dysart) cares for Chance. Calling him Chauncey Gardiner and really misunderstanding every simple thing his says the wealthy of Washington are taken by him. He is plain and honest and his simple speech patterns and gestures taken from television commercial seem sincere and trustworthy. The satire is about how we as beings and in this case powerful wealthy people see only what they want to see. Each child's utterance by Chauncey is given depth and meaning in the minds of the elite. So much so that the president uses what he thinks is a deep metaphor on the economy in a major speech. Citing Chauncey Gardiner as the source gets lots of people interested in this seemingly wise man and with celebrity come scrutiny. Still having lived a sheltered life he really had no past and the best efforts of the CIA and FBI could turn little up on the man. This only made him more interesting to Washington.
At the same time grieving Eve find personal comfort in Chauncey and soon is falling in love with him. Only the doctor ever finds out who Chauncey id Chance the gardener and although they don't show it, I don't think he ever tells anyone. When Ben dies the final scene is interesting. Chance wanders the estate grounds having lost interest in the funeral. He fixes a small pine sapling near a pond and then walks out onto the top of the pond water, after several feet he stops and using his umbrella plunges it deep into the water before removing it and continuing to walk on the water. Superimposed in the background is "Life is a state of mind." Although not laugh out loud there is really wonderful enjoyment in this movie. Its character and performances are wonderful.

Rating (7.5) 5.0 and above are recommended, Zombiegrrlz rating, Rent it!

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