Being There (1979) (PG)
"Being There" is a movie about the retention of innocence. A man who has a child's mind is thrust into the adult world after approximately half a century of being sheltered; and he somehow survives with his head held very high. He doesn't do this intentionally, in fact all the random incidences that lead up to his success are nothing but coincidence. Yet, he is accepted into the society and praised for his glorious mind, still stuck in a pre-adolscent phase, and his oratory skills, of which there are practically none.
"Being There" is as dry as the driest martini in existence. James Bond couldn't come within fifty feet of this movie, it's so dry...I think I made my point. But it attempts to be funny, and sometimes it is successful; but most of the time the timing of the lines, the execution, and the direction all drag the jokes out for far too long.
If you have ever heard the phrase "a shaggy dog story", you'll understand "Being There" much better. If not, prepare to be enlightened—a shaggy dog story is one that carries on for a long, long time and usually for a humorous ending. This is how this film felt (except more so), there must have been a punchline in there somewhere, but when you got to it—it was already stale.
Chance is a man who may seem mentally challenged. Whether is was abuse, neglect, or genetics that made him this way is not know; it's not important for what the film is conveying. Chance enjoys gardening and television, not much else interests him.
So when "the old man" (whomever that may be, most likely a father) dies and the house gets taken away, Chance is left wandering the streets of Washington, D.C. with no clue where or what anything is. Chance spent his whole life in the house, he learns politeness from the television (maybe poking fun at people who think that TV encourages violence) and is able to pass for a regular guy for a few minutes.
A random meeting leads him to a rich lady's house, the lady has a husband who's dying. Then, Chance (mistakenly thought of as Chauncey Gardner) discovers that his words have meaning.
People think that just because of the company that Chance (rather Chauncey) keeps he must be smart. But Chance has his child's mind, and it never wavers.
"Being There" is a political satire, a media satire, and an insult to people in general.
The idea is that we assume too much, which, by this movie's actions, we do.
My problem is not with the actors, I feel that Shirley MacLaine and Peter Sellers both do a great job. It's not with the writing, it's a smart script. My problem lies with the length of the movie. It's so long and it gets boring quickly. No matter how smart a movie is, you can't just claim that it is a "satire" and thus, a brilliant work. Possibly the best example of satire is Voltaire's Candide. This book is harsh, quick, funny, and relentless—brutal even.
That's what "Being There" needed to be, more of everything.
The last shot is riddled with visual metaphors and irony, and it is a beautiful shot indeed—too bad that it took so long to get there.
Satire should be something more easily accessible; not a super ironic piece that drones on.
Score: 2 stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones