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Plot

The film alternates between two time periods, the 1950s and the present, in which a dying Ann
Grant Lord (Vanessa Redgrave) reflects on her past. Her confusing comments about people she
never mentioned before leave her daughters, reserved Constance (Natasha Richardson) and
restless Nina (Toni Collette), wondering if their mother is delusional.
As a young woman in her early twenties, cabaret singer Ann (Claire Danes) arrives at the
spacious Newport, Rhode Island, home of her best friend Lila Wittenborn (Mamie Gummer),
who is on the verge of getting married to Karl Ross (Timothy Kiefer). Lila's brother (and Ann's
college friend) Buddy (Hugh Dancy) introduces her to Harris Arden (Patrick Wilson), a young
doctor and the son of a former family servant. Buddy tells Ann his sister always has adored
Harris, and expresses his concern that she's marrying another man out of a sense of duty rather
than love. Inebriated, Buddy passes out, and as Ann and Harris chat they find themselves
bonding.