Nothing says “underrated” more than Being There. Basically, I’m a person who adores film, but I don’t believe I’ve seen enough movies. So I keep trying to find movies that can make me appreciate it more. I heard about this film from my parents and I checked it out a while back ago, I think about half a year ago. I really liked this movie, so then I showed it to my sister who also liked it. The question that bugged my mind this whole time is “How come I never heard about this movie until now?”
I’m sure most critics have heard about it, and this movie is in the book of 1001 movies you must see before you die, so that means it is a well-known film at least for the older generation. So I think it’s the younger generation that’s not familiar with this film. It’s a shame, because this is one of the most subtle and amazing films I’ve ever seen.
The story’s about a middle-aged man named Chance (through an amazing performance by Peter Sellers, which was sadly one of his last films). He’s been living in a wealthy man’s house in Washington his whole life as the gardener, and he has such a simple mind that aside from his knowledge on gardening, he obtains his knowledge from watching things on television. However, when the old man dies, he’s forced to leave going to the outside world for the first time. As he goes around aimlessly and nowhere to go, a stroke of luck hits him (literally) when a car accidentally hits his leg. The woman int he car, Eve (played by Shirley McClain) decides to take him to her home to treat his leg, and it turns out she’s the wife of Ben Rand (played by Melvyn Douglas), a noble and powerful businessman who’s slowly dying. Eve assumes that Chance is an upperclass business man (based on his appearance and mannerisms) and mishears his name “Chance the Gardener” for “Chauncey Gardner”. During his stay in the home, anything he says is mistaken for some kind of insight or smart remark, and his comments about gardening is misinterpreted as business and economic allegories and metaphors.
This sounds like a ridiculous premise from what you’ve read, like some over-the-top comedy on human naivety, but thankfully it’s not. With an amazing direction, clever humour, and spectacular performances from the main cast, we get a very charming, beautiful and very witty film. Seriously, I shouldn’t continue explaining the film. In fact, it’s really hard to explain it. You actually have to be there in order to get it. The whole film plays by one joke for two hours and it’s Peter Seller’s performance that really help out. He plays such a simple-minded person that we really take pity on him while he’s going around the streets aimlessly until there’s this great relief after Eve finds him. But then almost everyone, especially Eve, mistakes his simplistic remarks as something more, or something else, so it then makes us feel pity on them! When Chance says “I like to watch”, he means the TV, not… you-know-what. At one point he’s even mistaken for some kind of government agent because of his little background. So it’s kinda like Forrest Gump, except not… if that makes any sense.
It’s can also be a very deep and serious drama. Throughout the movie we see a growing relationship between Chance and Ben (and it helped that the two actors were best friends in real life) and we see Ben trying to cope with his own death. It’s just so sad.
So go watch it for yourself if you haven’t seen it. If you’re older than I am, then you’ve probably heard about it and seen it already. For the young people out there, go check it out. It’s worth the watch.