These days, it seems almost impossible to bring up “Being There” without some unimaginative goon coming along and comparing it to “Forrest Gump.” That’s unfortunate, because if, like me, you’ve got little patience for that particular Zemeckis opus, you may be inclined to skip “Being There” altogether. This would be a grave mistake. The big difference between the two films is that “Gump” wants to be an important film, but in doing so, it achieves the opposite. “Being There,” on the other hand, has no such aspirations and manages to become an important film because it isn’t trying so hard. And if you’ve never seen the film and think you know everything there is to know about Peter Sellers, then “Being There” will show you the actor as you’ve never seen him before.
Chance (Sellers) is a middle-aged man best described as “simple.” He’s seemingly spent his entire life living with and tending to the garden of a very rich man. Since the old man is dead at the start of the film, we’re given very little information about Chance. Where did he come from and how did he come to be in the employ/care of the old man? We never find out. Chance is the blankest of all slates, and his only real exposure to the outside world has come through the television. He seems to enjoy the news and “Captain Kangaroo” equally. But now that the old man has passed on, Chance is given no choice but to go out into the world on his own, for the very first time, and it’s a strange place that doesn’t necessarily work as it does on TV.