I think I’ll just let Ebert and Cale do the talking for this one – I needn’t add much to their very good reviews. I will say two things:
1) This was my second Ashby film after The Last Detail. I like this guy. He doesn’t overdo anything, ever. In fact, he deliberately avoids manipulative devices – rarely does music accompany the visuals (when it does, he usually chooses something surprising), there is no gross editing trickery. He just shoots the script, alternating between long, mid and close-up to great effect. You know the phrase ‘They don’t make ‘em like that anymore’? Well, his films may be where it applies best. Allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions has almost become taboo in Hollywood today, but in the 70s (even as late as ’79) a studio like Warner Bros. would produce a film like Being There because the material was good. If only it were still that daring and simple.
2) I loved the ending. Loved, loved, loved it. It encapsulated the whole film into a single 30-second shot without trivialising all that had gone before; it makes for a fitting end to a very good film, but leaves you pondering for some time afterwards. Beautiful and possessing great depth, like the film as a whole.