Cosmopolitan writer Diana Sullivan (Jill Clayburgh) lives in splendid disharmony in New York with her teenage daughter Grace (Martha Plimpton). Clayburgh is totally in her element as a spoiled middle-age woman trying to cope with her too-hip daughter.
They are soon out of their element, though, when they travel to Louisiana. It is not simply a case of invaders from civilization soiling a pure culture; story is deepened by the exploration of family ties.
What they find when they arrive is Ruth Sullivan (Barbara Hershey), the matriarch of a family of three sons, one of whom is kept in a cage and another retarded, plus a pregnant daughter (Mare Winningham).
Director Andrei Konchalovsky and cinematographer Chris Menges offer a slow and seductive descent into this world of alligators and primordial beauty.
Clayburgh gives one of her best performances and seems right at home with the ticks and self-centered mannerisms of a modern woman. Plimpton nearly steals the show with her mixture of girlish brashness and suggestive sexuality.