An idealistic small-business owner and family man is drafted into national politics in Rome with entertainingly cynical results in “The Chameleon.” Fast-paced tale of good intentions re-molded by the necessary evils of power is Italian to its core, but applies to any governing body where self-interest vies with the public interest. Appealing pic, which played Italian hardtops last November, would be a lively addition to any tube outlet.
Charismatic everyman Augusto Vigno (helmer and co-scripter Luca Barbareschi), runs a small brewery in northern Italy. He’s among angry locals who block a minister’s train to protest massive damage created by flooding of the River Po: Corroded barrels of toxic waste have contaminated the water. Powerbrokers spot Augusto on the TV news and decide to groom him for public service. Augusto, who doesn’t suspect the depth of the machinations behind his new post, is swept into a crash course in How Things Really Work, distracted by a lovely mistress (Catherine Wilkening) who hopes he’ll be different from the rest of the ruling elite. Clever, sometimes breathless camerawork sweeps the viewer along with Augusto as shifting loyalties emerge and recede.