The full length review:
One of the few cases where the film is better than the book
***CONTAINS LARGE SPOILERS***
Being There is one of my all time favourite films. I seem to watch it at least once a year, and I usually see it as part of a trilogy of idiots along with two Bill Murray films called The Man Who Knew Too Little and What About Bob?
The book is a very slim novella of less than 100 pages long, and written in a minimalist, not a word wasted style. The film script (written by the author) is much expanded from this bare-bones story and as such is in the strange position of being a deeper, more detailed, more complex, more clever and more thematically richer experience than the source book. The novella is good and worth reading but the film overshadows it completely. There is nothing extra in the book that didn't make it onto the screen, with perhaps the exception of the Soviet side at the end. The film might have benefitted from including the extra material of the Russian ambassador quoting Chance in a speech ("Our chairs are almost touching") and his embassy's attempts to get information on him. Having said that, it was non-essential stuff that just doubles the American secret service side of the story to no important effect.
A few details are different in the book such as the servant Louise has already moved out the house at the start, the attorney doesn't recognise Chance when he appears on the talk show, the events of the embassy dinner are spread over the dinner and an after party and we get to read the details of the the gay experience, Ben Rand doesn't die by the end etc. None of this stuff is worth getting excited about. Politics are discussed a bit more at the end but the film doesn't suffer for not having all of this in it.
As I'm familiar with the story I know what is being discussed at the very end. I'm not 100% sure if the first time reader would understand that Chance is being discussed for the vice presidency. It's so obscurely worded that I had to read it three times to clarify that the man on the sofa is the current President and that they are talking about Chance becoming the Vice President.
It's a good book (3 out of 5 stars) but the film is superior (5 out of 5 stars) as it's much more detailed.