December 23, 1979 [Being There]

This decade is finally over--a dark mess not even Jimmy Carter's smile can clean--and boy howdy don't we know it, ready to bring in Ronald Reagan to make it all better, an actor whose quiet confidence in 20 Mule Team Borax guarantees an end to these Death Valley days.

Peter Sellers is also quiet in Being There, his Gardener empty where it counts, a clean slate everyone else writes on--but he remains clean--as clean as Borax--no, cleaner, Sellers refusing to laugh at Chance, gentle and deliberate in every movement--especially the last, the one everyone wants to talk about, the walk on the water. But that's incidental: It's the fools I remember, eager to find any brand that's New and Improved to explain everything--with metaphors, please, anything at all; we'll fill in blanks as we go along.

--And once more: Sellers' own blankness ends up beautiful, the only thing I can trust, that "malaise" that Carter pointed out heavy enough to keep me in my seat. Sellers has said that he thought of Stan Laurel as he worked on his character, and that's a great comfort: If we need another fine mess cleaned, I'd rather it were Stan's squeaky tears than anything hauled out of Death Valley.


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