Being There


If Hal Ashby's slow-burning satire seemed prescient in 1979 (given the clothhead who was about to become president), now's probably an apposite time for its DVD release too, given the berk currently residing in the White House. At its centre is Chance the gardener (Peter Sellers), a childlike fiftysomething who's taken into the home of a millionaire (Melvyn Douglas) and mistaken for a saintly sage - even though his homespun wisdom stems from watching TV and watering plants. Natch, he's soon tipped for president...

A Gumpish plot? Perhaps, but Being There is much more subtle and enigmatic than that. And it's sweet, too: in his last great performance Sellers is touching without being cheesy, while Douglas (who, like Sellers, died shortly afterwards) well deserved his Oscar. A miscast Shirley MacLaine is a stumbling block, but otherwise it's a gentle winner with a sting in its tail.

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