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Being There

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West Germany, United States · 1979
Rated PG · 2h 10m
Director Hal Ashby
Starring Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden
Genre Comedy, Drama

Simple-minded Chance has been a housekeeper all his life, with no exposure to the outside world. When the owner of the house dies, Chance is left on the streets of Washington D.C., but he soon finds a new calling as a political advisor.

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What are critics saying?


Time Out by

Sellers's performance—as the innocent neuter figure who rises accidentally to political power on the strength of vacant homilies—is remarkable. But Ashby's direction is marred by the same softness that made The Last Detail and Coming Home so morally bland.


Chicago Reader by Dave Kehr

The director, Hal Ashby, has affected a restrained, understated style to match the subtlety and precision of Sellers's performance. No one seems to know what to do with the allegorical undertone of Jerzy Kosinski's script, but as a whole this 1979 film maintains a fine level of wit, sophistication, and insight.


The New York Times by Janet Maslin

Hal Ashby directs Being There at an unruffled, elegant pace, the better to let Mr. Sellers's double-edged mannerisms make their full impression upon the audience.


The A.V. Club by Keith Phipps

Being There finds humor in the way Sellers becomes a blank screen on which people project their expectations. But it also finds value in his simplicity, which might seem like a lot of New Age hokum if not for Sellers' disarmingly quiet performance.


Chicago Sun-Times by Roger Ebert

It's a movie based on an idea, and all the conventional wisdom agrees that emotions, not ideas, are the best to make movies from. But Being There pulls off its long shot and is one of the most confoundingly provocative movies of the year.

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