Being There (dir. Hal Ashby – 1979) was one of Peter Sellers last films. Taking on the role of the extremely simple Chance, Sellers maintains a calmness that is both provoking and humorous. After his older parental figure whom he lives with dies, Chance ventures out into the real world on his own. He lucks into meeting the US President through Ben Rand, the kind of man who makes presidents. None of the people around Chance recognize him for being mentally challenged and really, I don’t think I do either. There is a sort of Zen-like existence to him.
While the film is almost as even-handed, there are a couple things which disrupted it a bit. For one was Louise’s (the maid) rant which, while funny, didn’t match up with the other oblivious perceptions of Chance we were being given. Second was the President’s impotency; if I had to guess, I would say that is supposed to show that the President was impotent both literally and figuratively. In the context of the plot, this makes sense, but until the ending (and until I thought about it a bit) it seemed fairly extraneous. The ending brought me a good deal of joy, as it helped me understand a reference in Arrested Development (no spoilers, but as a hint, it involves Rita – who, too, is charmingly simple). The outtakes during the credits, however, did seem incredibly out of place and broke a lot of the film’s illusion. Let’s save the outtakes for Jackie Chan movies, ok?
The attitude exuded by Chance is not of stoicism, as there is a real understated joy to his performance, but of a cool demeanor that is felt in each scene. While watching, I thought it comparable to Harold and Maude and afterward found it only partially a surprise that Ashby had directed that as well. I was going to say if you liked Harold and Maude to see this, but really, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t like this.
Arbitrary song of the day: Thomas Fehlmann – Atlas 2