Chance (Peter Sellers) is a middle-aged man who lives in Washington D.C. He has lived there his whole life. Other than gardening, his knowledge is derived entirely from what he sees on television. When the owner of the home he lives in dies, Chance is forced to leave and discovers the outside world for the first time.
At first, Chance wanders aimlessly. He passes by a TV shop and sees himself captivated by a camera in the shop window. He takes a steps backward off the sidewalk and is struck by a chauffeured car owned by Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas), an elderly business mogul. In the back seat of the car is Rand’s wife Eve (Shirley MacLaine).
Eve brings Chance to their home to recover from the accident. On the ride home, Eve mistakes Chance as a wealthy businessman. Once at her estate, her husband Rand also assumes that Chance is an upper class, highly-educated businessman. Chance’s style and insightful wit embodies all the qualities Rand admires. Randi interprets Chance’s utterances about gardens as allegorical statements about business and the state of the economy.
The movie tells the story of a half-retarded gardener, Chance, whom one supposes is the illegitimate son of a prominent business man in Washington, D. C. This occurs in 1979, when the Carter Administration was in its last stages of faded glory. Chance, played by Peter Sellers, is left homeless when the old man dies. He then wanders the streets of the big city in search of his new life. Whatever he has learned has come from watching TV and he uses his remote control to change channels. While roaming the streets of Washington, Chance even tries his clicker in real life situations, which is very funny.
Director: Hal Ashby
Year of Release: 1979
Character to watch: Peter Sellers as Chauncey Gardiner.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?