Being There Movie Poster Image

Being There

Amazingly poignant performance by Peter Sellers.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1979
  • Running Time: 130 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Not applicable

A joke about genital size, sexual forwardness (usually based on misunderstandings), unseen (but heard) masturbation.


Brief swearing by street thugs.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A small amount of social drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film is emotionally taxing and touching. There is some brief profanity. In one off-screen moment that is meant to be comedic, a woman masturbates with the hopes of seducing a man who is clearly not interested.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 12, 1979
DVD/Streaming release date:April 3, 2001
Cast:Melvyn Douglas, Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine
Director:Hal Ashby
Studio:Warner Home Video
Topics:Misfits and underdogs
Run time:130 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:language and sexual humor

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Teen, 15 years old Written bySgt.Pepper March 22, 2011
It's really quite a good movie! If you're young, and have heard bad language before, it's not an issue. The only scene that is a little iffy, is when Chance is in the bedroom and Eve is on the floor. Chance is watching TV, but Eve is, well, doing something else. You don't see anything, you just hear her. But, it's not something a kid would recognize. Great movie! Sometimes you feel bad for Chance... but it's actually funny too!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
Educator and Parent Written byshonb May 27, 2015


What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byimprove April 4, 2012

A glimpse at the truth??

This is one of my all time favorite stories, and I am glad a film was made from it. This movie depicts how people, through their own choices, misinterpret the acts and utterances of a very simple man. It just so happens that in this story, the believing people have a lot of political clout, causing the simple man to become a prominent figure in national politics. There is no reason to believe this kind of thing does not happen on a regular basis, and it is a good step from which to launch the idea that you must really think about what any leader is saying, if it makes sense, and if it will ultimately serve our community.