The satirical premise that leads “Being There” along it’s wacky narrative has entranced me for a very long time, ever since I first picked up the Novella by Jerzy Kosinski. It is such a strong and powerful comedic exercise. We are led through a wheel-of-fortune story, thinking we are seeing and understanding something Chauncey, the fantastic protagonist played effortlessly by Peter Sellers, is not. However, the assumption of stupidity, on any single persons end, is stupid in itself. It is utterly false, and reflects only the over-developed egos of our society. Chauncey may be seeing something we are not; he may be befit to speak dryly with the president, and he may know everything about sexual intercourse only through watching TV. Maybe he is a conservative when it comes to sex and plans to wait till marriage. And the thoughtful rambling I present here are brushed upon more in the film, where agencies are hired to find information on this ‘Chauncey Gardner’ mysterious man.
Peter Sellers is perfectly cast as Chauncey Gardner, a rather enclosed and reserved man who takes great pride in attending to his landlord’s garden. He is thrown out into the fast-paced world when collectors come and explain the landlord to be dead and Chauncey must leave right away. He is run over by a chauffeured car, like in a TV. show, and is taken by the glamorous mistress in the back-seat to her home, to be medically reviewed by her husband’s personal doctor. This leads to Chauncey speaking with the woman’s husband, Benjamin Rand, in his usual quiet, controlled manner. Mr. Rand, an influential but ill-ridden business-man, then comes to enjoy Chauncey’s company, and with his life soon to fade, he approaches the conclusion that Chauncey should ‘fill in’ for him in his absence. This wrecks havoc on Chauncey’s whole world; reputation, history, sexual intercourse, and just plain making it through the next event or dinner party, (though Chauncey seems more comfortable talking leisurely before a camera than socially at a dinner).
“Being There” is a fantastic satirical comedy, a light film that brightens with the sheen of its stars and its story’s emotional punch. It shatters all social-constructs and shows without them, you are crazy enough to get attention; and the aristocrats are left too deep in the darkness of their own ways to understand whats strange. What really do we know about Chauncey? Are the short expositional scenes that revealing? The only thing that is not a secret is that “Being There” is a very appealing, articulate, and heartfelt film.