Pearl Berman (Shirley MacLaine) has just arrived back from the funeral of her husband. As her dysfunctional family kvetches in the living room, the dapper Joe Meledandri (Marcello Mastroianni) arrives. It seems that Joe has admired Pearl from afar for a number of years, ever since he met her husband in a bar and persuaded him to return to his wife. As Pearl is wooed by Joe, she has to deal with her lonely, overweight daughter Bibby (Kathy Bates) and her prettier daughter Norma (Marcia Gay Harden), who suffers from such a lack of self-esteem that she assumes the personalities of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, and Bonnie Parker.