Being There (1979) [Blu-ray]
|Genre(s): Comedy / Drama|
|Warner Brothers || PG - 130 minutes - $28.99 || February 3, 2009|
|Reviewer: Brad Lowenberg || Posted On: 2009-01-29|
Writer(s): Jerzy Kosinski (novel); Jerzy Kosinski (screenplay)
Cast: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacClaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden
Theatrical Release Date: December 19, 1979
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My first time experiencing this film was in Film class during my run in High School. The teacher was a big fan of Hal Ashby (as was I - Harold and Maude is one of my favorite films) and I was eager to catch another one of his films that I had overlooked. Running a bit over 2 hours long, it took us 3 days to finish the film...and when it was over I immediately ran out and tracked down a VHS copy (before DVD was around) of the film so I could watch it again. There is something about this film that puts you in a mood that makes you feel like you could do anything - especially if Chancey Gardener could!
As the film begins, we are introduced to Chance (Sellers) - a well dressed man who lives in a huge place where he takes care of the garden. We know something is not right with him...he speaks in a monotone voice and isn't quite able to understand everything that is going on. His employer - and long time friend referred to as "the old man" - has passed away in his sleep and Chance is forced out of the only place he knows as home. This is a problem because Chance does not anyone else and can't read or write - only how to garden and watch TV. He leaves wandering around the streets of Washington, D.C. not really knowing what to do or where to go - only that he is looking for a garden to take care of. After walking for what seems like days, he is accidentally hit by a limousine that just so happens to belong to the very rich Benjamin Rand (Douglas) and his wife Eve (MacLaine).
Eve decides to take Chance back to her mansion to treat his injuries and when asked what his name is he suddenly coughs and Eve misinterprets his name as Chauncey Gardener (instead of Chance the Gardener). Chauncey soon arrives at the spacious mansion and quickly becomes just the thing that helps the elderly and sick Ben turn around. His spirit and courage makes Ben feel alive and the two quickly become friends while Eve takes an interest in our lovable gardener. What follows is a film that will certainly lift any one's spirit as we see the entire world take interest in Chauncey's charm and believe that "life is a state of mind".
What makes this film stand out so much is the performances seem so utterly real that you believe that each character has known each other for years. As we find out in the Special Features, Douglas and Sellers had known each other before filming and the friendship really comes alive in the film and brings a certain understanding to the character of Chauncey.
Sellers gives the performance of his life – literally - he passed away shortly after completing the film – and really brings the character of Chance/Chauncey to life. The way he talks and moves really makes you feel that Sellers took a lot of care and really studied the book to give us the perfect interpretation of Chance the Gardener. While I've never been a fan of the Pink Panther films, Sellers performance proves he had what it took.
Memories of Being There (16 Minutes) - Actress Illeena Douglas (Stir of Echoes) tackles this featurette by herself as she recalls some of her memories from being present on the set (her grandfather is Melvyn Douglas - Ben in the film) as well as some stories she remembers her grandfather telling her.
Deleted Scenes (2 Minutes) & Alternate Ending (2 Minutes) - Both deleted scenes are a treat for fans, but don't amount to much if they were included in the film. A quick conversation between Chauncey and Eve and another scene of Chance walking through the streets making possible racial comments. The Alternate Ending is the biggie - we finally get to see what they originally had planned instead of the jaw-dropping one we got in the Theatrical Cut. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Rounding out the disc is a Gag Reel (6 Minutes) ** Blu-ray Exclusive ** and Theatrical Trailer.
Really good to finally see this film get the Special Edition treatment it deserved. The features may be sparse, but they pack a real punch for fans!
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
Being There is presented in 1.78:1 on a 50GB Disc. Having seen this film on various formats, I'm glad Warner decided to give it the Blu-ray treatment. Scenes stand out - and given the incredible scope the film has with the ratio, it looks great. Colors are richer and blacks nice and dark. Only a few scenes had the typical DNR Warner likes to include, but nothing that really stood out. It may not be perfect, but were talking about a thirty year old film here! If I didn't know the date of its original release, it could mistake for a film that came out in the late eighties. Great job, Warner!
Warner has included a brand new loss lossless 2.0 TrueHD (box says 1.0 - my receiver showed 2.0 and came out of two speakers). For a film of this caliber, its good Warner took the extra care and bumped it up to lossless when they could have easily slapped the original 1.0 Mono track and be done with it. Dialog was fine - a few times it sounded a bit like an echo, but I can't fault Warner with that.
Warner dug deep to pull this gem out and I'm glad they did - while not a title that gels well with the current Blu-ray demographic this just might be the one to pull in those fence sitters who believe that older films can't look good when given the HD treatment. With excellent Picture and Audio quality (given the source) and some great new special features I couldn't recommend it enough. I loved everything about Being There and hope most people will give its quirky, heartfelt story a shot.