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Film / Things Change

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Things Change is a 1988 American film written by Shel Silverstein and directed by David Mamet. It stars Don Ameche, as a simple cobbler who has volunteered to take the fall for a mob murder, and Joe Mantegna, as the low-level gangster assigned to babysit him before the trial. Together they take a trip to Lake Tahoe as a last hurrah and get into a variety of adventures when the cobbler is mistaken for a powerful mob boss.


This film provides examples of:

  • 555: The showgirls leave a number beginning with "KL5."
  • Chekhov's Gun: Vincenzo gives Jerry a quarter, telling him that if he ever needs anything to give him a call. When things look their darkest, Jerry announces that he's going to make a phone call.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The film opens on a man taking a violin off a wall and playing it, then taking it over to a cash register to purchase. The camera then wanders over to two gangsters watching across the street. Then we focus on the main character.
  • Fixing the Game: Gino convinces the casino to rig a roulette game so that Jerry can get the experience of winning, promising to pay back whatever Jerry wins. Jerry does indeed win, then neglects to take his winnings away, accidentally betting all his winnings on the same fixed number to win a huge jackpot.
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  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: After Jerry wins a huge jackpot on a rigged game, Gino tries to talk him into giving the money back, since it wouldn't be polite to take the money of their guests. Instead, Jerry puts the money on a longshot bet on the no-limit Big Wheel. If he wins, he'll bankrupt the casino, but he misses by one number. When the wheel girl says she's sorry, Jerry shrugs and says, "Things change."
  • Humble Goal: Jerry agrees to spend years in prison, at a fairly advanced age, so that he can buy a fishing boat when he gets out of prison. Gino is surprised that this is all Jerry wants in return for Taking the Heat.
  • The Mafia: Jerry is an Italian immigrant who has made a deal with the Mafia, so Gino, an American mobster, is taking care of him until Jerry can deliver.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Gino tells a mob pal that Jerry is "the guy behind the guy... behind the guy." Jerry's quiet dignity makes the fib so believable that he's instantly treated like mob royalty.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Don Ameche got top (left) billing, but appears on the right side of the poster.
  • Nice Guy: Gino is a nice guy, especially for a mobster. As you might expect, he's a particularly low-ranking mobster.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: While Gino is partly motivated by boredom, he also genuinely wants to show Jerry a good time, but goes behind the mob's back to do so, which ultimately lands him in trouble. In the end, he's banished from the mob to live with Jerry as a humble cobbler.
  • The Quiet One: Jerry is a quiet and dignified man, which makes him believable as a man of power.
  • Source Music: The opening credits soundtrack turns out to be some random guy trying out mandolins in a music shop. He passes by two mobsters who actually matter, and the plot begins.
  • Taking the Heat: Jerry hired to take the heat for a mob murder in exchange for a payday when he gets out of prison. In the end Jerry has made a new friend in the mob who has someone take the heat for Jerry.
  • Title Drop: Twice. Once by Gino, brushing off losing a bunch of money at the casino. The second title drop is much more sinister.


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