DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Peter Sellers as CHANCE
    Shirley MacLaine as EVE RAND
    Melvyn Douglas as BENJAMIN REED
    Jack Warden as PRESIDENT “BOBBY”
    Richard Dysart as DR. ROBERT ALLENBY

    Rated PG
    Studio: Warner Bros.

    Directed by: Hal Ashby

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Chance the Gardner (Peter Sellers) is a simple man who has spent his life watching television and tending to an old man’s garden. When the old man dies, Chance is kicked out of the house by the lawyers, and he must learn to live in the real world for the first time. However, a freak accident lands him into the home of millionaire Benjamin Reed (Melvyn Douglas) who mistakes Chance’s slow manner with sheer brilliance. Chance charms his way into high society, the news media and even the President’s inner circle.

It has been years since I have seen “Being There,” and since I only saw it when I was about ten years old, I didn’t get the film at all. Now, looking at it with a fresh adult eye, I can appreciate it for its subtle approach. And being Peter Sellers penultimate role, it has a new perspective since he is now a galvanized entertainment legend.

Sellers is perfect for the role of Chance, and he’s allowed to breathe in his scenes, which is a sign of the times in which the film was made. Nowadays, even a slow-talking character like Chance would be punched up with some snappy editing.

While the story is utterly ridiculous, since not everyone would be fooled all the time, it still works as a charming work of fiction. The “Forrest Gump” of the 1970s, “Being There” reminds us that sometimes the simplest way to look at things is the best.

The only real complaints I have about this movie are more comments on the era in which it was released. “Being There” was a popular book in the 70s, and the film hit the cinemas in 1979. It used older styles of filmmaking, including wide master shots in lieu of close up and rapid camera movement. To the audience of today, with no general memory of this classic, it might be lost.

Although meant as a slightly surreal look at politics and the media, “Being There” feels a bit shaky, especially in today’s viewing world. The unintended ruse that Chase plays is really a house of cards. Were it made today, that house would crumble, but in the light of the 70s, it seems to work that it continues to stand even amid all the sense that it would blow away.

The DVD comes with remastered image and sound, the original theatrical trailer and sporting a single special feature: “Memories from Being There.” In this featurette, Illeana Douglas (Melvyn Douglas’s granddaughter) reflects on her memories of her grand dad working with Peter Sellers.

Peter Sellers fans, fans of the book and those who love 70s cinema.

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