Peter Sellers in his best film creates his finest role as Chauncey Gardener, the well-dressed, illiterate, very likely mentally retarded adult whose slender understanding of the world is based on having watched a great deal of television.
Chauncey's protector has died, & he's cast out into the world for the first time, where he makes bewildered attempts to use his television remote control to get rid of scary things, & provides innocuous polite statements for everyone he meets, persistently smiling so that no one quite realizes how confused he happens to be. And as it turns out, this is all it takes to wow the powers that be, who mistake him for a wise philosopher & Presidential material.
When it debuted in 1979, Being There immediately entered the culture as an iconic lesson, & all these years later, it is still echoing through the public consciousness. Because it remains, alas, as apropos as ever of the cultural emptiness, spiritual vapidity, & political mediocrity, in which all of us are steeping right now.
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