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Being There

Released on: 08 Feb 1980 • Rated: PG • Runtime: 130 min

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Hal Ashby
Writer: Jerzy Kosinski, Robert C. Jones
Actors: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas

Plot: After the death of his employer forces him out of the only home he’s ever known, a simpleminded, sheltered gardener becomes an unlikely trusted advisor to a powerful tycoon and an insider in Washington politics.

Box Office Gross: $30,177,511

Awards: Won 1 Oscar. 14 wins & 15 nominations total

Ratings

7.9/10

95%

78

76

4.1

83

Being There, directed by Hal Ashby and released in 1979, is a thought-provoking and subtly profound film that challenges our perceptions of reality and identity. With a captivating performance by Peter Sellers and masterful direction by Ashby, this satirical drama explores themes of innocence, perception, and the power of simplicity.

The film centers around Chance (Peter Sellers), a middle-aged man who has spent his entire life confined to the walls of a wealthy man’s estate, tending to the garden. Chance’s sheltered existence abruptly changes when his employer passes away, forcing him to venture out into the unfamiliar world beyond the estate’s walls. Through a series of chance encounters, Chance becomes entangled in the lives of influential individuals, who mistakenly interpret his simplistic statements as profound wisdom.

The plot of Being There is deceptively simple, yet it serves as a canvas for a deeper exploration of human nature and societal norms. As the story unfolds, we are confronted with our own assumptions and preconceived notions, questioning the meaning we attach to words and actions. The film invites us to contemplate the power of perception and the ways in which we construct our own identities.

Peter Sellers delivers a mesmerizing performance as Chance, bringing a childlike innocence and serenity to the character. With minimal dialogue and subtle gestures, Sellers conveys a profound sense of presence, capturing the essence of a man unburdened by the complexities of the world. His nuanced portrayal evokes a mixture of empathy, intrigue, and introspection, making Chance a truly unforgettable character.

Hal Ashby’s direction in Being There is impeccable, balancing the film’s satirical tone with moments of quiet introspection. He expertly captures the nuances of human behavior and societal interactions, presenting a sharp critique of media manipulation and the cult of personality. Ashby’s deliberate pacing allows the audience to absorb the subtleties of the story, creating an immersive experience that lingers long after the credits roll.

The score, composed by Johnny Mandel, complements the film’s contemplative atmosphere, enhancing the emotional resonance of key moments. The cinematography and production design, although understated, contribute to the film’s overall impact. The visual aesthetics serve to amplify the stark contrast between the sterile, artificial world of the elite and the raw, unadorned nature of Chance’s existence.

Being There is a film that elicits a multitude of emotions. It prompts introspection, forcing us to question our own assumptions and the way we navigate the complexities of life. It challenges us to look beyond the surface and find meaning in the seemingly mundane. It is a film that invites contemplation, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer.

While some may find the deliberate pacing and subtle humor of Being There less accessible, it is precisely these elements that contribute to its brilliance. The film demands active engagement from the audience, rewarding those who are willing to delve into its layers of meaning.

In conclusion, Being There is a cinematic gem that explores profound themes with subtlety and grace. With its captivating performances, masterful direction, and philosophical undertones, it invites viewers to question the nature of reality and the power of perception. It is a film that challenges our assumptions and leaves us with a lingering sense of wonder.

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