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Being There (1979)

aka Being There

"Getting there is half the fun; being there is all of it!"

Directed By: 
Details: 130 mins · English, Russian, Italiano · PG (USA)


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Life is a state of the mind ...

A perfect gem of a film. Not a single false note is this fable of a man-child as he journeys through the wonderland that is this world. With a vocabulary of perhaps a hundred words he vanquishes all ... the cynical newsman, the man of great wealth, that man's wife, a Russian Ambassador, the president of the United States. In the end it seems he will probably wed the window of the billionaire and become the president of the United States. The final words, in a voice-over a shot of Chauncey Gardner (the man-child) walking on water ... "Life is just a state of mind" ... says it all.

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Small Chance
Small Eve Rand
Small Benjamin Rand
Small President 'Bobby'
Small Dr. Robert Allenby
Small Vladimir Skrapinov
No_movie_poster Louise
Small Thomas Franklin (as Dave Clennon)
No_movie_poster Sally Hayes
Small Chauncey Gardiner


No_movie_poster Charles Mulvehill Producer
No_movie_poster Hal Ashby Director
No_movie_poster Caleb Deschanel Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Johnny Mandel Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Jack Schwartzman Executive Producer
No_movie_poster Don Zimmerman Editor
No_movie_poster Robert C. Jones Screenplay
No_movie_poster Andrew Braunsberg Producer
No_movie_poster Jerzy Kosinski Screenplay
No_movie_poster Jerzy Kosinski Story Contributor
No_movie_poster Don Zimmerman Editing


"Getting there is half the fun; being there is all of it!"

"Life is a state of mind."


Chance (Peter Sellers) is a middle-aged man who lives in the townhouse of an old, wealthy man in Washington D.C. He seems simple-minded and has lived there his whole life, tending the garden. Other than gardening, his knowledge is derived entirely from what he sees on television. When his benefactor dies, Chance is forced to leave and discovers the outside world for the first time.

Chance wanders aimlessly, wearing his former employer's expensive clothes. Chance passes by a TV shop and sees himself captured by a camera in the shop window. Entranced, he steps backward off the sidewalk and is struck by a chauffeured car owned by Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas), an elderly business mogul. In the back seat of the car sits Rand's wife Eve (Shirley MacLaine).

Eve brings Chance to their home to recover. Drinking alcohol for the first time in the car ride home, Chance coughs as he tells Eve his name. Eve mishears "Chance the Gardener" as "Chauncey Gardiner". Judging from Chance's appearance and manners, Rand assumes that Chance is an upper class, highly educated businessman. Chance's style and seemingly insightful ways embody the qualities Rand admires. Chance's simplistic utterances about gardens are interpreted as allegorical statements about business and the state of the economy.

Rand is also a confidant and adviser of the U.S. President (Jack Warden), whom he introduces to "Chauncey". The president interprets Chance's remarks about how the garden changes with the seasons as economic and political advice. Chance, as Chauncey Gardiner, quickly rises to national public prominence. He becomes a media celebrity with an appearance on a television talk show and soon rises to the top of Washington society. Public opinion polls start to reflect just how much his "simple brand of wisdom" resonates with the jaded American public.

Rand, dying of aplastic anemia, encourages Eve to become close to Chance. At his funeral, while the president delivers a speech, members of the board of Rand's companies hold a whispered discussion over potential replacements for the President in the next term of office. As Rand's coffin is about to be interred in the family mausoleum, they unanimously agree on "Chauncey Gardiner".

Oblivious to all this, Chance wanders through Rand's wintry estate. He straightens out a pine sapling and then walks off across the surface of a small lake. The audience now sees Chance physically walking on water (a metaphor for Chance's being a modern messiah). He pauses, dips his umbrella into the water under his feet as if testing its depth, turns, and then continues to walk on the water as the president quotes Rand: "Life is a state of mind."

Release Dates:

DVD : 2001-04-03