Skip to content

Being There

October 2, 2010

650. Being There
Directed by Hal Ashby
USA, 1979
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
First viewing


Chance, later known as Chauncey Gardiner, has been brought up as an estate gardener. All he needs and all he values in life is a television, a television remote and his garden. When the owner of the estate dies, Chauncey is forced to fend for himself despite having no education, his only knowledge having been gleaned from what he has seen on TV. After he is knocked by a car belonging to the rich Eve Rand, she takes him home so he can receive some care. Chauncey then meets her husband Ben, and his life begins to change.

Essential Scene:

Out on his own for the first time, Chauncey (Peter Sellers) comes across a gang of black teenagers. This being the first group of people he’s come across since venturing out, he walks over to enquire.

Chauncey: Excuse me, could you please tell me where I can find a garden to work in?

Boy 1: A garden? What you growing, man?

Chauncey: There is much to be done during the winter. I should start the seeds for the spring and work the soil.

Boy 2: Bullshit. Who sent you here, boy? Did that chickenshit asshole Raphael send you, boy?

Chauncey: No. Mr. Thomas Franklin told me I must leave the old man’s house. He’s dead, you know.

Boy 2: Dead, my ass. You tell that asshole, if he got something to tell me, to get his ass down here hisself. You got that, boy?

The boy pulls out a knife. Chauncey does the only thing he knows how to do in a situation he doesn’t like. He takes his remote control out of his pocket and tries to change the channel.


Being There is a lovely, calm film. Every dramatic and comedic element is subtle. The main reason for this is the extraordinary character of Chauncey Gardiner.

Due to his closed-off upbringing, his persona is a human being without the bullshit. He doesn’t understand the concept of lies, jargon, political strategy or indeed any type of false or nasty emotion. Despite the misunderstandings, this is what people see in him, and why they love him.

There’s a purity and serenity about him that makes one think about the world we live in, and how much our character is warped and changed by the things around us.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jim Lawrence permalink
    December 22, 2010 4:27 pm

    There is only one thing that slightly – only slightly – mars this nearly perfect film. The credit sequence showing Sellars working on his character undermines the dreamlike weirdness of this magical movie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: