Being There is a Hal Ashby film about Chance the gardener (Peter Sellers), who is forced to leave his home for the first time after his boss passes away. He then runs into (or rather he is run into by) Eve Rand (Shirley Maclaine), who takes him back to her estate so he can recover from the minor car crash. He soon becomes close with her as well as her ailing husband, as they see him as wise beyond himself.
I went into this movie as a fan of Harold and Maude, with very little knowledge of the film, and I recommend the same for a first time viewer of this film. One of the themes of this film was not over-analyzing the simplicities in life, so I feel somewhat bad analyzing the messages in this movie, but I’m gonna do it anyways.
Though this was an American made comedy, it had the feel and context of a British comedy. By this, I’m likening Chance to a British comic hero as opposed to an American comic hero. The comic hero in American comedies is usually a man who is going to make something of himself and someone who is smarter than the people around him. The British comic hero is typically someone who is dumber/more unaware than everyone around him and somehow made it farther in life than he should have. Chance the Gardener (or misinterpreted as Chauncey Gardener) is misunderstood. He is a reflection of our understanding of society. The film highlights the discrepancy between society’s interpretation and reality. Chance is simply a gardener who has never been outside, however he is seen as a genius who gives beautiful (but actually unintentional) metaphors.
One theme of the movie was what actually makes us human. At first we see Chance as a strange outsider, who only gets social skills through watching tv and is unable to connect to people on any other level, however by the end of the movie, he seems like the most human of anyone. It allows the viewer to observe society from an outside perspective and question the programmed reactions we have. Chance quickly goes from a shut in to an overnight sensation simply because of people’s interpretations of him. He goes from tending a small garden in the house he lived in, to “tending the garden of society.” This is highlighted in the iconic last shot of the movie when he walks onto the pond, likening him to a Jesus figure. This causes the viewers to question who he really is, and whether or not it was fate that he was sent to save the people around him, rather than chance. My eventual conclusion was that the movie was simply “a story of Chance” and this entire interpretation that I’d had of him was pointless. He is simply a kind and genuine person, who is “Being There” for everyone around him.
This was a very beautiful and underrated movie, which I would recommend to anyone interested in a lighthearted but meaningful comedy
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%