Howard Zieff directed this comedy-drama about the emotional awakening of a young girl in a small Pennsylvania town during the summer of 1972. Anna Chlumsky plays eleven-year-old Vada, a quiet child living with her widowed father Harry Dultenfuss (Dan Aykroyd), a local mortician who prepares bodies in his basement.
Vada feels responsible for the death of her mother, who died giving birth to her, and lives in an emotional cocoon, her only friend being a personable local boy, Thomas J. Sennett (Macauly Culkin), who suffers from allergies.
Like Vada, Harry keeps to himself, until a freelance make-up artist, Shelly DeVoto (Jamie Lee Curtis), comes to town and gets a job working with Harry. Shelly and Harry fall in love and Vada feels threatened by her presence. But then a personal tragedy forces Vada to come out of her emotional shell.