A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
BEING THERE centers on Mr. Chance, who has spent his life working as a rich man's gardener. Though illiterate, a bit slow, and obsessed with television, he possesses a unique passion for plants. Upon the death of his employer, a confused Chance is cast out into the big world. Having never cooked, ridden in a car, or visited a doctor by himself, he sees a minor automobile accident as a lucky break as the woman involved in the accident, Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine), whisks him back to the house of her rich and ailing husband (Melvyn Douglas). The Rands misinterpret the oddity of Chance -- misidentified as an insightful Chauncey Gardiner -- as profound insight. What starts as a misunderstanding evolves into a national phenomenon. Mortality, sex, and the presidency find new meaning when seen through the nearsighted eye of the mysterious stranger.
Is it any good?
Although the film has been touted as a classic, some people may find it too esoteric. The majority of the main characters are overall good people, but the film's premise emerges from a poignant/painful misunderstanding. Parents, not kids, will be drawn to this film due to its grown-up humor.
Sellers spent years trying to bring the story of the odd-duck gardener to the big screen, but not until the Pink Panther sequels renewed his bankability would a major studio agree to front the film. The result was a critically acclaimed and poignant piece. Sellers earned many nominations for his role and took home the Golden Globe. Director Hal Ashby won the coveted Golden Palm from the Cannes Film Festival, while Melvyn Douglas earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the ailing Benjamin Rand.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about issues regarding the media. What part does the media play in the creation of Chauncey Gardiner? Is Chance's depiction as a simpleton politically correct or ideologically problematic? In addition, parents may want to discuss this film in the context of contemporary Hollywood. How does its rather small and understated narrative compare to films today? Can they think of anything similar?
- In theaters: March 12, 1979
- On DVD or streaming: April 3, 2001
- Cast: Melvyn Douglas, Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine
- Director: Hal Ashby
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and sexual humor
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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