Dinky Bossetti (Winona Ryder) is a 15-year-old rebel and misfit in Clyde, Ohio, a town that is preparing for the imminent arrival of Roxy Carmichael, who left 15 years ago and is now a national celebrity. Dinky, who lives with her adoptive parents (Graham Beckel and Frances Fisher), feels a kinship with this mysterious woman and decides that she is Roxy's long-lost daughter.

Denton Webb (Jeff Daniels), who fathered a child with Roxy before he settled down with a family of his own, is obsessed with the homecoming of the town's prodigal daughter. Evelyn (Dinah Manoff), Roxy's former best friend, is trying to make the most of the situation.

As Dinky dreams of a new life, Elizabeth Zaks (Laila Roberts), her high school counselor, worries about this gifted teenager's ability to accept her own special talents. Gerald Howells (Thomas Wilson Brown), a popular classmate, reaches out to her and wants to be her boyfriend. As the gala Roxy Ball approaches, the moment of truth for all of Clyde's dreamers swiftly arrives.

Screenwriter Karen Leigh Hopkins and director Jim Abrahams offer a portrait of the large role celebrities play in the minds of individuals who oftentimes view their own lives as diminished, constricted, and devoid of significance. The film focuses on the adolescent struggle to define oneself and also speaks about honesty, risk, loneliness, and self-respect.