Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 1979. BSB, CIP, Lorimar Film Entertainment, NatWest Ventures, New Gold Entertainment, Northstar Media. Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski, based on his novel. Cinematography by Caleb Deschanel. Produced by Andrew Braunsberg. Music by Johnny Mandel. Production Design by Michael D. Haller. Costume Design by May Routh. Film Editing by Don Zimmerman.
Peter Sellers gave his last performance (at least until Blake Edwards magically edited him into a Pink Panther movie two years later) as a mentally challenged gardener who is used by greedy corporations to fill the position of President of the United States for their manipulative purposes (and as Julie Christie pointed out in A Decade Under The Influence, yes, it does sound familiar).
After his employer dies, Sellers is left to wander Washington, DC armed with nothing but the few things he has managed to mimic from television, until he falls into the hands of an elderly businessman (a marvelous Melvyn Douglas) and his frustrated wife (Shirley MacLaine, who also sparkles).
When his gardening terms are mistaken as political comments of a genius calibre, Sellers finds himself an unlikely candidate to be the country’s next leader. Slyly humorous and very well acted, this Hal Ashby film enjoys a few too many offensive cliches (yeah, I’m sure the dirty gay men would think of Peter Sellers as catnip) and is a bit boring as well. Still, as a final showcase for Sellers and his phenomenal talents, it fits the bill just fine.
The Criterion Collection: #864
Academy Award: Best Supporting Actor (Melvyn Douglas)
Nominations: Best Actor (Peter Sellers)
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition
Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Peter Sellers); Best Supporting Actor (Melvyn Douglas) (tie)
Nominations: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Shirley MacLaine); Best Director (Hal Ashby); Best Screenplay