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Monday, November 2, 2015

Every once in a while, I like to dig way into the back of my vault of classics and hopefully convince people to check out a movie that did not get the attention it deserved. I have always been a fan of Peter Sellers, but the only film he made that I consider to be a classic was the 1979 film Being There. The thing I absolutely love about this film is that Sellers’ humor is all over this movie, but you have to pay really close attention to find it.

Being There is a movie about a simple man named Chance who was a gardener for a very wealthy man in Washington, DC. When that very wealthy man passed away, the staff was forced to leave the estate and find new work. The problem is that Chance had never, ever left the estate. When he was told he had to leave, it took some serious convincing by other staff members and a team of lawyers to get him to understand what was going on.

Throughout the movie, Chance the gardener has his name morphed into Chauncey Gardner. He meets up with street thugs, prostitutes and other sorts of street criminals. He gets injured so badly that he winds up in the hospital from his injuries. So what does Chance do while he is lying on the bed in the hospital being examined? He very slowly and carefully delivers a verbal message he was given by a street gang leader that was intended for another street gang leader. When you watch the lead up to that scene and the scene itself, it is impossible to not start laughing.

Chauncey Gardner becomes a respected advisor to another wealthy old man in Washington, DC and finds himself being taken into another large estate. When Chauncey starts pruning the hedges of the estate, the old man pulls him aside and indicates that he has much bigger plans for Chauncey. By the time the movie is over, Chauncey Gardner is considered to be presidential material by most and he even has an affair with a rich heiress. Well, she has the affair. He was just kind of….being there.

At the very end of the movie, one of the people who had suspected that Chance was nothing more than a simple gardener realizes that he was right, but he is amazed when the movie ends with Chance wandering away from a funeral and walking on water. The ending of the movie was not only strange, it was absolutely perfect.

Sounds like I ruined the movie for you, doesn’t it? Absolutely not, because this is one of those movies that you have to see to appreciate. I could tell you the whole story (which I have not) and you would still have to see the movie to appreciate just how good it really is. This movie is so good that it was one of the three movies Sellers was in that got him nominated for an Oscar and, in my opinion, this is the best movie Sellers ever made.

Peter Sellers was a comedic genius, but he could also be a dramatic actor as well. He combines those two elements into the character of Chance the gardener and gives us a very insightful look into how Washington, DC and national politics really work. This movie was made in 1979, but it is just as relevant today as it was when it was made.

Even if you are not a Peter Sellers fan (and you should be), you need to see this movie. It is an emotional experience that will make you laugh one minute, and then stare at the screen in utter confusion the next. Chance learns absolutely nothing throughout the course of this film. He remains the same and never alters his character. It takes a great movie and a brilliant actor to be able to pull off the idea that a character thrust into a critical situation never changes or develops. That is just one part of the genius of Being There, and just one reason why you should see it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

+George N Root III is a Lockport resident and drive-in movie fanatic. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at Join the conversation about this movie and others at

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