Ameche, a shoeshiner, is treated like royalty when he and his guard go to Lake Tahoe for a last fling before his is supposed to go to jail in place of a mobster kingpin. — Genre: Feature Film-Comedy — Rating: PG — Release Dat... more »e: 2-MAY-2000
"In the year 1979 a little film called Being There came out. Now an acknowledged masterpiece, that film chronicled how a mentally retarded gardner, through a bizzare series of coincidences was mistaken for a political kingmaker, a caring friend and a potential lover. The synopsis of Things Change does not sound all that dis-similar; A simple Italian shoemaker(Don Ameche) agrees to confess to a murder commited by a Mobster in exchange for a boat in his native Sicily when he gets out of prison. Jerry(Joe Mantegna), a low ranking mafioso assigned to watch him for the weekend and coach him on his confession, feels sorry for him and decides to take him to Lake Tahoe for one last fling. There, through a series of coincidences, the shoemaker is mistaken for a mafia don, and recieves the royal treatment from the hotal at which they are staying, and more dangerously from the head of the Vegas mob, Joseph Vincent(Robert Prosky). Yes the synopses are similar, but Being There and Things Change are infact the opposite. In Being There, Peter Seller was a human vacuum in which people projected their needs and wants. They molded him into whatever they wanted him to be. And since he was white, middle aged, impeccably dressed and decent looking they mistook his simplistic musings about the seasons "Autumn follows Summer and Spring follows Winter.." for profound metaphors. He unwittingly confirmed their learned prejudices about what a thoughtful man would look like. In Things Change, Ameche is loved by the head of the Vegas mob(who would kill another man in Ameche's position), draws heartfelt affection from a pair of women(who would snub another man in his position) and is befriended by the goon gaurding him(who would probably humiliate another man in Ameche's position). This simple Italian immigrant draws out the best in people, appeals to their humanity which is sometimes against their better judgement. Both Being There and Things Change are studies of human nature, but while the former is a pessimistic satire, the latter is an optimistic fable. The film was directed and co-written by David Mamet, a playwright and a film-maker noted for creating low key yet highly charged verbal confrontations in a world of macho-posturing. If his dialogue is a dance(as it is often called), then Things Change is his slow romantic one. As a director his films have often been rather claustrophobic(even his highly acclaimed House Of Games could have used some visual trickery), but here, with the cinematographer Juan Ruiz-Anchia's aid, he was able to create a film of remarkable visual beauty. One scene in the early morning hours of Chicago(Mamet's native city) has Ameche walking 10 feet ahead of Mantegna and another Mafioso. The mob has backed out on its deal and now they just want Ameche dead. While Mantegna feverishly argues for the old man's life, Ameche's walks into a tunnel, the early morning sun casts a visible ray of light over him, and his long shadow all but touches the debating mobsters. Alaric Jans's beautiful music plays and Ameche walks on, oblivious to the fact that his life is being defended by his captor. Its a beautiful moment of inexplicable emotional resonance. And like the rest of the film it is perfectly judged. Mamet has two aces up his sleeve in Joe Mantegna and Don Ameche. Mantegna has been almost all of Mamet's films and has a complete command of his idiosyncratic rhythms. Ameche, with his perfect equipoise and his literal honesty is a contrast to him, and I never doubted people's reaction to him for a second. Both of them shared the best actor award at the Venice film festivel that year. Things Change is a delicate highwire act that could have easily degenrated into farce or melodrama, Mantegna and Ameche's believable relationship prevents it from doing so. Things Change has a special place in my heart for a scene that has absolutly nothing to do with the its hypnotic charm. You see, in film after film I've watched characters on the run break into a car, kick open a compartment under the steering wheel and put two wires together starting the car and going on their way. Where did they learn this skill? Were they all car thieves before they were whatever they are in that particular film. The priceless moment I've been waiting for years to see comes when a desperate Mantegna, dragging Ameche along finds an unlocked car they could steal. They get in the car, there is no key. Mantegna looks at Ameche and says "I know, I'll hotwire the car." And then a moment later he looks at him again and asks "How the hell do you hotwire a car?". A film character who can't get a car to conviently start without a key. It had to happen."
The greatest "Don" - Don Ameche in subtle mob masterpiece!
Mr. Cairene | 12/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don Ameche has always been a great actor who has portrayed in role after role something most actors never achieve: Elegance. In this role of Gino, a humble cobbler, Mr. Ameche achieves something even more sublime: Quiet elegance, coupled with gracious charm that defeats even the worst intentions of all those who would want to harm this truly GENTLE man. Joe Mantegna, as Gino's "foil", is equally wonderful as a basically ignorant man with a great heart who is obviously in the wrong profession. Mamet's (and Shel Silverstein, of all people!) screenplay and direction are flawless: his story is filled with suspenseful and humorous moments piled up one after another, and all are surprising - to us as well as to Gino! Nothing is as it seems, and the finale is truly inspired! Before this film I was not impressed with Mamet's work, neither on film nor on stage. I may still not care for Mamet's work. But, "Things Change" changed my view of what he can do with a good story and great actors, at least for now. However, as Ameche/Gino says: "things change." One reviewer has compared this film to Peter Sellars "Being There", and I think the comparison is a good one. Although we are not dealing with an idiot in this movie, Mamet's film does show that (most) people will react positively to a positive impulse and allow the good in themselves to surface over avarice and other human errors. And, like Gino, this is a very gentle movie. There is virtually no violence, no rabid car chases, no steamy sex, and, much to my personal amazement, virtually none of the profanity that has littered Mamet's scripts (his profanity, in my opinion, has crippled his work for many people). Above all, though, this is Don Ameche's film. His quiet elegance, charm, and subtle humor create a character who lives in the memory long, long after the film is experienced. This movie, and his performance, are to be cherished and watched again and again. Hurrah that it is on DVD!"
My favorite David Mamet film of the 80's.
Joseph M. Tages II | Anaheim CA USA | 08/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Things Change (1988) During the late 1980's, actor Don Ameche continued his remarkable comeback in David Mamet's story of a naive shoeshiner who is roped by the mob into posing as one of their own. Joe Mantegna steals the film for me as Ameche's reluctant minder. Glengarry Glen Ross gets better reviews but this remains my favorite of Mamet's works. The chemistry between Ameche and Mantegna is terrific and you'll be rooting for both men as their journey leads them towards a tense, yet inevitable resolution. Robert Prosky appears in a pivotal role and the future husband & wife team of William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman have brief roles as well. Don't miss this gem of a film, it will stay in your heart once you watch it. "
Not the Matix and better for it.
G. Newman | Riverside, CA | 05/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't ordinarily write reviews, but some of the reviews I've read for this film leave me dumbfunded. The film is a masterpiece of understated desire in a world where dreaming dreams becomes the source of screwball comedy and real danger. The ballet of unexpected turns and truly poetic moments of both desire and irony speak deeply to anyone who has ever lived a life of sometimes muted expectations. The ending that provides a solace in humble existence is a miracle of charm and grace. So it lacks the violence and pace of "Glengarry Glen Ross." Mamet shows himself capable of greatness in a very different style from his usual. If you don't get it, give it to someone else to appreciate and savor.This is a great film in the small masterpiece kind of way, not the blockbuster way. I adore it."
A Mamet triumph!
skipmccoy | Los Angeles, CA USA | 09/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"David Mamet makes great films, but oddly some very great ones seem to go unoticed. This is probably his best film in my opinion and I loved HOUSE OF GAMES, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, HOMICIDE(also overlooked) and THE WINSLOW BOY. It's got that whole fairy tale feel to it that is strangely and powerfully endearing. Don Ameche is a cobbler who is called by the mob to go to jail for one of theirs(for murder). He accepts and has only a few days before he must stand up in court. Joe Mantegna is a small time screw up who is assigned to deliver Ameche when the time comes. Being a compassionate man, Mantegna takes Ameche out for a last hurrah. Very, funny and charming feature co-written by Shel Sivlerstein. Also showcases the remarkable talents of Robert Prosky, Ricky Jay, J.T. Walsh and William H. Macy. Sort of like the Hal Asby classic THE LAST DETAIL. A film to be owned!"