Being There

  • Directed by Hal Ashby
  • United States, 1979, 130 mins., English

In one of his most memorable roles, Peter Sellers plays Chance, a hermetic housekeeper at a wealthy man’s sprawling, lavish residence in Washington, DC. Apparently having not left the estate in some time, he is unceremoniously flung into the world when his patron unexpectedly dies. The problem is that Chance’s only knowledge of the world has come from televised depictions. Soon he is involved in international politics through a series of misunderstandings and misinterpretations, Ashby and screenwriter Jerzy Kosinski gleefully incising the vapidity of electoral politics and the US’s collective fascination with mainstream media versions and distortions of reality. “There’s an exhilaration in seeing artists at the very top of their form: It almost doesn’t matter what the art form is, if they’re pushing their limits and going for broke and it’s working. We can sense their joy of achievement—and even more so if the project in question is a risky, off-the-wall idea that could just as easily have ended disastrously. Being There is a movie that inspires those feelings. . . confoundingly provocative.”—Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times.

Appears in: Print the Legend

Genres: Comedy

Other Films by Hal Ashby

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The Last Detail

With an unconventional script by Robert Towne (Chinatown) and understated performances by Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid, Ashby’s whimsical film is an exemplar of the freeform cinematic aesthetic of the 1970s. Billy “Bad Ass” Budduskey (Nicholson) and Mule Mulhall (Otis Young) are two sailors given a week to escort a young prisoner (Randy Quaid) from

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Harold and Maude

A classic of the much-mythologized New American Cinema of the 1970s, Harold and Maude follows Harold (Bud Cort), a moneyed yet death-obsessed 19-year-old, and Maude (Ruth Gordon), a lively 79-year-old, who fall in love after meeting at a stranger’s funeral. Harold can’t enjoy life; his mother (Vivian Pickles) forces him into dates with women his own