It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
There's an exhilaration in seeing artists at the very top of their form: It almost doesn't matter what the art form is, if they're pushing their limits and going for broke and it's working. We can sense their joy of achievement - and even more so if the project in question is a risky, off-the-wall idea that could just as easily have ended disastrously.
Hal Ashby's "Being There" is a movie that inspires those feelings. It begins with a cockamamie notion, it's basically one joke told for two hours, and it requires Peter Sellers to maintain an excruciatingly narrow tone of behavior in a role that has him onscreen almost constantly. It's a movie based on an idea, and all the conventional wisdom agrees that emotions, not ideas, are the best to make movies from. But "Being There" pulls off its long shot and is one of the most confoundingly provocative movies of the year.
Sellers plays a mentally retarded gardener who has lived and worked all of his life inside the walls of an elegant Washington town house. The house and its garden are in a decaying inner city neighborhood, but what goes on outside is of no concern to Sellers: He tends his garden, he watches television, he is fed on schedule by the domestic staff; he is content.
Then one day the master of the house dies. The household is disbanded. Sellers, impeccably dressed in his employer's privately tailored wardrobe, wanders out into the city. He takes along the one possession he'll probably need: His remote-control TV channel switcher. He uses it almost immediately; surrounded by hostile street kids, he imperturbably tries to switch channels to make them go away. He hasn't figured out that, outside his garden, life isn't television.