Being There

I introduced the 1979 classic, Being There, to my kids the other day. I turned autocrat, as parents often do, and dragged the two boys away from their electronics to this great teaming of Director Hal Ashby and comic comedian Peter Sellers. Luckily they both enjoyed it!
I think this is Sellers’ best movie. So understated, exceptionally cast and acted, such perfect timing, it is very close to being the perfect comedy. The only thing recent that compares, for me, is Stranger than Fiction. Although I must say that Ashby’s other gem, the incredible Harold and Maude (1971), is almost as good.
So why should you see this 30-year-old film if you haven’t yet? Well, here are seven reasons:

  • if you like Peter Sellers and want to see how good an actor he really was, this is the movie to see:  as an actor he really walks on water here
  • Ditto for Shirley MacLaine
  • Politics are treated here as they should be: as Theatre of the Absurd
  • To understand how ironically perfect Louise’s quote is:  “It’s for sure a white man’s world in America. Look here: I raised that boy since he was the size of a piss-ant. And I’ll say right now, he never learned to read and write. No, sir. Had no brains at all. Was stuffed with rice pudding between th’ ears. Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jackass. Look at him now! Yes, sir, all you’ve gotta be is white in America, to get whatever you want.”
  • This is a satire of everything:  politics, literature, sex, mass media, class, money, race — you name it.  And yet, unlike many satirical works, this one is timeless
  • For the extras:  showing something too funny even for Peter Sellers to get out without laughing
  • For the ending:  Life really is a state of mind!

Very, very highly recommended.


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