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It is mid-summer 1995 as a 1978 Mercedes zooms down the highway heading west. Inside sit Ann (Natalie Portman), a 14 year-old, and her mother Adele August (Susan Sarandon). Against her will, Ann is being moved to Beverly Hills where Adele, stifled by small-town life in Bay City, Wisc., hopes to make her dreams come true. Ann is furious at having to leave the life she loves, her grandmother, Lillian, and her best friend, Benny (Shawn Hatosy). Adele is tired of defending herself against her daughter's longings for home and family. She feels she's taking Ann away from a lifeless future and offering her an exciting new world.|
Their first stop in L.A. is the Beverly Hills Hotel, the symbol of Adele's dream; then they head off to a Travelodge and what will become their real life — meals at diners and a very ordinary one-bedroom apartment in the flats of Beverly Hills, arranged for them by realtor Gail Letterfine (Caroline Aaron).
Adele gets a job as a speech therapist with the L.A. Unified School District; Ann is enrolled in Beverly Hills High School which to Adele is her daughter's ticket to a better future.
Over the course of the next four years and moves to numerous apartments, they adjust to the reality of life in L.A., Ann growing there, learning about life, Adele always on the fringes of the dream, on the outside looking in. Their relationship is close, but always volatile.
Ann watches as Adele tries to find Mr. Right and always coming up with Mr. Wrong. She has one date with Josh Spritzer (Hart Bochner) with whom she sees a future, but becomes obsessed with him when he never calls again. Ann herself makes friends with girls at school (Heather McComb) and Peter (Corbin Allred), a boy who's infatuated with her.
Throughout, Adele and Ann have their differences — and their fights. Adele the dreamer, always looking to be 'anywhere but here'; Ann the realist, seeing things for what they are, sometimes more the mother than the daughter.
But throughout, they care about each other and love each other deeply, as a mother and a daughter, and as two best friends. They share joys and sorrows, and begin
to understand each other better. Ann slowly accepts her mother for what she is; Adele finally begins to understand Ann's independence.
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