Semi-retired university professor David Winters and his wife and former student Melanie Winters née Lansing live on a hobby farm in the Eastern Townships of Quebec with their adult son Benjamin Winters and Benjamin’s son, Timothy Winters. Their life is not totally harmonious due to David’s chronic infidelity and Melanie’s emotional instability, a result in large part of her growing up which she refuses to speak of to Benjamin, who knows nothing of his mother’s childhood directly from her. Melanie has been institutionalized many times in her life and is on medication to deal with her mental issues. Melanie’s passion in life is to follow many cases of political oppression in the world, this passion again due to her past life. In September 1985, Melanie, through this work, reconnects with Jakob Bronski who she knew during World War II when she was only a teenager when they were both interred at Drancy, a transit station outside of Paris where the government, in cooperation with the Nazis, housed Jews before they were sent to a concentration camp. An adult when they were interred, Jakob, a poet, has just been released from a Russian psychiatric hospital where he has lived for most of his life for killing a guard. Against David’s wishes, Melanie asks Jakob to come and stay with them for as long as he wants. Along with Jakob comes Christopher Lewis, who was also interred at Drancy when he was a teenager, his internment despite not being Jewish himself. The three formed a special bond during their stay at Drancy. Jakob and Christopher’s visit opens up a flood of emotions for Melanie about her past with the two people she considers the closest to blood relations and how it led to where she is today. But it also brings into light the Winters family dynamic as especially Benjamin learns more about his mother’s life.
Sophie Hartley is convinced that she is being stalked. She becomes increasingly certain that her husband’s beautiful co-worker, Mara, wants her children, her husband and her life. But no one believes Sophie. Forced to prove her sanity, Sophie grows increasingly paranoid – but is she imagining things? Sophie becomes completely caught up in her obsession, turning stalker herself – and makes a discovery more frightening than her worst fear.
Christmas Eve in New York, and the lonely divorced publisher, Rose Collins, needs a miracle to improve the health of her mother, interned in a hospital with Alzheimers. She feels sorry for another patient and meets his visitor. Meanwhile, Nina Vasquez breaks her engagement with her beloved fiancé Mike due to his suffocating jealousy, but misses him. Mike is stalked by a stranger, bartender Artie Venzuela. The poor Jules arranges to spend Christmas Eve in the hospital, where he spent the best Christmas of his life when he was a teenager. The lives of some of these characters cross with others along the night.
Sympathetic look loosely based on the relationship between tobacco heiress, Doris Duke (1912-1993) – think Duke University – and her shy butler, Bernard Lafferty. The icy and mercurial Duke fires her butler for serving a chilled cantaloupe; the agency sends Lafferty, formerly household staff to Liz Taylor and to Peggy Lee. He’s an alcoholic, fresh out of rehab. He gradually becomes Duke’s gay alter ego as she romps through life sleeping with young men, making shrewd decisions quickly, managing her fortune and orchids as Lafferty manages her New Jersey estate. With a wine cellar to die for, Bernard falls off the wagon. Can he pull himself together when Doris needs him?
Ben Kalman is aging: he has heart problems, his marriage is over, he’s lost a fortune after being caught cutting corners in his East Coast car business, and he’s sleeping with as many women as possible – the younger the better. He’s chosen his current girlfriend, Jordan, because her father can help him get a new auto dealership; she’s asked him to escort her daughter, Allyson, 18, on a visit to a Boston college campus. He behaves badly, and there are consequences to his love life, his finances, and his relationship with his daughter and grandson. Is there anywhere he can turn?
A young man lingers in the family home of his fiancee, after her accidental death. While grieving along with her parents and drawn into legal issues presented by a district attorney seeking justice for the family, he finds himself falling in love with another woman, against his own best intentions.
Atlantic City is a place where people go to realize their dreams, the promise of the future manifested by the demolition of the old crumbling buildings to be replaced by new hotels and casinos. Someone who recently came to Atlantic City for that promise is native Moose Javian (Saskatchewan) Sally Matthews, who currently works as a waitress at a hotel oyster bar, but who is training to be a black jack croupier and wants to be more cultured, such as learning French, in order to work at the casinos in Monte Carlo. Another dreamer who came to Atlantic City decades ago is Lou Pascal, who has long worked as a numbers runner and who claims to have been a cellmate and thus implied confidante of Bugsy Siegel. Although Lou still dresses to the standard to which he is accustomed, his dream long died as he only works penny ante stuff for Fred, most of his current income from being the kept man of widowed recluse, Grace Pinza. Grace too came to Atlantic City to fulfill her dreams – most specifically to participate in a Betty Grable lookalike contest – and ended up staying, marrying a player named Cookie Pinza. Sally, Lou and Grace all live in the same soon to be demolished apartment building – Sally and Lou who are next door neighbors – although Sally knows neither of her neighbors. Lou, however, secretly spies Sally through their respective apartment windows as she goes through a daily ritual. The dreams of this collective are potentially affected – largely dashed or reawakened – with the arrival into Atlantic City of Dave Matthews, Sally’s estranged, deadbeat husband, and his very pregnant new ageist girlfriend Chrissie, who happens to be Sally’s younger sister. It is the unknown to Sally that Dave and Chrissie bring with them that affects those dreams, namely a large cache of cocaine stolen from criminal sources.
Fed up with her small-town Bay City existence, Adele August leaves her family and second husband and heads for Beverley Hills with her daughter. The teenager resents the move and her mother’s always flamboyant behaviour and in turns plans to get away to university on the east coast. Mum’s plans are different – she wants a movie star for a daughter.
In West Hollywood, Suzette, now on the far side of middle age, has always been a party girl, leading a life solely for the here and now. When the here and now leads to her without a job, no money and thus no sense of whether her partying life has gotten her anywhere, she decides to go into her distant past to visit in Phoenix an old friend, Vinnie, who she has not seen or talked to in twenty years. In their shared past, Suzette and Vinnie were Los Angeles groupies coined the Banger Sisters for their penchant to sleep with any and all rock musicians who came through Southern California. Suzette does know however that Vinnie’s life has changed, she married to Raymond, a lawyer who has political aspirations, the two who have two teenaged daughters. It is in part the reason she decides to visit now well off Vinnie, to see if she will lend her some money. Suzette reconsiders when she finds out just how far Vinnie has changed. She now goes by her full given name Lavinia, and is not only the model of conservatism and respectability, but will go to extreme lengths to control this respectable agenda, which probably does not include a friend from their wild past. Suzette guesses that Vinnie’s family may not know about her past life. If Suzette does decide to see Vinnie, she may upset Vinnie’s apple cart for good or bad. Suzette’s life is also mutually affected by Harry Plummer, a man she picks picks up on the way to Phoenix. With an extreme case of OCD, fifty year old Harry is failed Hollywood screenwriter who is returning to his hometown of Phoenix to conclude some business regarding what he considers his failed life.
Max Baron (James Spader) is a 27-year-old high-flying advertising executive still recovering from the death of his wife. One night he is in a bar when he meets Nora Baker (Susan Sarandon), a 43-year-old waitress with a fixation on Marilyn Monroe. The couple gradually fall in love, though age and social differences mean that the path of true love is strewn with problems.