Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers
Adele August (Susan Sarandon) is eccentric woman, who leaves her husband in a small Wisconsin town and goes to Beverly Hills to realize her dreams, even though she may not know what those dreams are herself. She takes her daughter, Ann (Natalie Portman) with herself, though she would like to stay. When living in Beverly Hills, Adele improvises from day to day, often being unable to pay the bills. She wants her daughter to become an actress, but Ann is much more interested in going away to college. After Adele fails in many respects, she accepts her daughter's plans and decides to help her.
The story by Mona Simpson, bears some similarities to Simpson's own youth, as young Wisconsin girl who moves west to California with her divorcee mother, Joanne, although Simpson denies any literal ties.