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</script></div>{/googleAds}With Americans seeking the reassuring aglow of an unspoiled 80's decade, precisely thirty-two days before President Jimmy Carter's stagflated throne, sluggishly encapsulated by the incumbent as contributing to a â"crisis of confidence"—â"[Shakedown] 1979" vis á vis the Smashing Pumpkins—completed its nomadic one-term yield to President-elect Ronald Reagan's era of optimism, Being There's (1979) â"Chance, the gardener" (Peter Sellers) synchronously and ignorantly cast his own simpleton spin on the United States' dreary economic situation: â"As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden." Trouble is, of course, that Chance, if not Carter, was talking about an actual garden.

Being ThereIn a 30-year career that many consider to be among the most fruitful for any comedic actor, Being There was Peter Sellers' swan song. His â"Chance" was the last in a long line of memorable characters—Inspector Jacques Clouseau, Dr. Strangelove, Bond—James Bond (yes, Bond), Dr. Fritz Fassbender and, of course, that master seedsman and keen political observer Chauncey Gardiner, a.k.a Chance, the gardener.

Re-released on remastered DVD in February of this year, in celebration of its 30th anniversary, the flickering stars in Being There shine brighter than ever—Shirley MacLaine and Jack Warden among them—and the political-social satire plays not unlike a horoscope: You can see whatever it is you're looking for. In 2009, with a worldwide economy teetering on the verge of implosion, Chance's blank commentary, â"Yes! There will be growth in the spring!" lends the film a timeless annotation that may only be emerging 30 years hence. It may be true, as the maid who raised him from childhood indignantly points out, that Chance was â"shortchanged by the Lord and [is] dumb as a jackass," but the benefit of cultural hindsight affirms that he's not alone in this harsh assessment. A witless like Chance sends an alarm, albeit unknowingly, as the present ignores the future generation's call to arms.

Never having been outside the estate in which he gardens, never having been in a car, not knowing how to read or write, never having been to a doctor or dentist—Sellers' Chance makes Forrest Gump (1994) look positively metropolitan. The world happens upon, indeed, discovers, the motionless Chance. Forrest is restless, it's what puts in him in the middle of the action. Chance watches the world go by on TV, interpreting reality through make-believe. He's a spectator (â"I like to watch"). Forrest transforms the parallel make-believe world into his reality. The two merge, making him a participant. True, they're equally imbecilic, but their higher purpose is supposed to be that of vessels enlightening the rest of us. Their angelic existences are meant to open our eyes to life's fragility, the delicate balance between what we want to be and what we actually are.

Hollywood loves the dimwit—Tropic Thunder (2008), anyone? (Ironically, Robert Downey, Jr.'s â"Everybody knows you never go full retard"-spewing Kirk Lazarus was nominated for Oscar in 2009) —Sellers' â"Chance" was nominated for Oscar and 15 years later Hanks' â"Forrest" got to take the little man back to (the) home with him. Being There's PC consolation is that Melvyn Douglas' Mr. Rand, Chauncey's—a.k.a. Chance—oblivious kingmaker, was permitted to take home Oscar. If only political-social trajectories were as easy to forecast as Hollywood ones.

Component Grades
3 Stars
2 stars
DVD Experience

DVD Details:

30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; documentary featurette.



  • Memories from Being There with Illeana Douglas (15:00)

Previews - Original Theatrical Tailer for Being There

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging