Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Being There directed by Hal Ashby


This 1979 film, based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski, is a pure delight! Peter Sellers plays Chance, a simple-minded gardener who works for a wealthy Washington, DC resident. He has always lived in his employer's home, carefully tending the garden and watching tv in his spare time. But when the man passes away and his estate is taken over by lawyers, "Chance the gardener" is basically tossed out on the street with nothing to his name but his late employer's expensive clothes. A series of twists, turns and misunderstandings leads him to the residence of one of the President's most influential advisors, where he stumbles into the position of "Chauncey Gardiner," a sage new economic advisor to the White House.

Before he knows what has hit him, Chauncey is featured on television interviews and quoted again and again by media outlets, and even by the President himself. His companionship is sought by all the DC bigwigs, and he finds himself in a whirlwind of parties and important meetings. The only topics he knows anything about are gardening and television, so no matter what anyone asks him, he sticks to what he knows! It's hilarious to see how people interpret his statements, even though the gentle, polite gardener is just saying what he means.

Being There is a valuable lesson on human communication. It's interesting to see how the meaning of  Chauncey's words depends greatly on how his listeners view him. I guess I was wrong in yesterday's post...maybe it's possible for a fool to make it to the White House, after all. Not likely, but possible. For two more films expressing the lighter side of politics, try War, Inc. or The American President.

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