This film moves back and forth between its two main characters.
1- Peejoe Bullis (Lucas Black) and his brother Wiley (David Speck) are orphans who live with their grandmother (Sandra Seacat).
2- Lucille Vinson (Melanie Griffith) kills her husband Chester because he won't let her go to Hollywood to star in the sitcom Bewitched, where she has been cast on a 2-episode role. Lucille is Peejoe and Wiley's aunt, and the sister of Dove, another uncle of the two boys.
When Lucille goes to Hollywood with Chester's head in a Tupperware container after having poisoned him with rat poison, she leaves her seven children with her mother, so Grandma has no more place for Peejoe and Wiley. They have to go to live with Uncle Dove (David Morse), and his wife Earlene (Cathy Moriarty). Dove tells sheriff John Doggett (Meat Loaf), that they don't know where Lucille is heading for.
On her way to New Orleans, Lucille can hear Chester's head talking to her (represented by the voice of Brent Briscoe), making sarcastic comments. The assistant at the Fleur de Lys hat shop (Marion Zinser) is a bit sarcastic at the beginning as well, but she is not so when Lucille buys a 500-dollar couture hat because she needs the hatbox to put Chester's head in. Later, Lucille stops at a bar, and a barman (John Fleck) thinks she is a whore and is rude to her. She gets annoyed, and steals the barman's money and car.
Later on, she stops at a road coffee shop. There, Sally (writer Fannie Flagg) is a waitress, and realizes Lucille's being sought by the police, but she doesn't give her in. She talks to her for a while, and then she tells her to go without paying saying "it is on me". Because of the stolen car, Lucille gets pulled over by a police officer, who gets all excited hearing the story she is telling with sexual overtones. When they are kissing, Lucille handcuffs the police officer and steals his gun, although she leaves it outside the police station.
Back home, Peejoe sees black people queueing up to register for voting although it's illegal in Alabama, and focuses on 17-year old Taylor Jackson (Louis Miller). Peejoe and Wiley go to a small swimming-pool, the only one in town but only-white. Taylor jumps in the pool, and all the white people get out of the pool, except Peejoe. Peejoe watches how the sheriff kills Taylor when he was running away from him, pulling him down from a railing, hitting his head on the cement and killing him. Later, Peejoe has an incident with a lawn mower, which hits him in an eye with a golf ball, and everybody wants to think he was attacked by the sheriff. Peejoe will carry a patch in his eye for almost the rest of the film.
At the funeral, Peejoe parades with Taylor's mourners. He coaxes Wiley into following him. They all finish at the same pool, singing and jumping in, only to be disbanded by the sheriff. A Look magazine photographer (Michael Arata) is there, and takes a close-up picture of Peejoe's face. Peejoe is considered a hero, although he insists he only happened to be there. When Martin Luther King (Dudley F. Craig II) arrives in town -we never see his face-, Peejoe is introduced to him, and they shake hands.
Lucille had earned some money in Las Vegas, having the time of her life playing roulette and shagging a very handsome bellboy (Brad Beyer). Eccentric limousine driver (Richard Schiff) takes her to Hollywood, where her agent Harry Hall (Robert Wagner) is expecting her. She presents herself under the name of Caroline Clay. There, bitchy actress Joan Blake (Elizabeth Perkins) is rude to her. Lucille works on the set of Bewitched, with the stand-in actors (Charlie Dell, Oliver Clark and Tracy Griffith) giving her the cue lines. Hall thinks Lucille should appear in films as well. At a party, the bitchy actress investigates what's in the hatbox, because her badly-behaved dogs are snuffing at it. When she sees Chester's head, she walks stiffy and dizzily, goes through a closed window and drowns herself out of shock, but nobody suspects Lucille had anything to do with it. Norman drives her out of the party.
Back in Alabama, Earlene complains because the whole town is ostracizing her, because of Peejoe's involvement with the cause. She wants the two siblings out of her house, but Dove won't allow it. In the middle of the discussion, they see Lucille's episode on TV. They stop quarrelling and they watch it in amazement.
Back to Hollywood, when Lucille is about to throw Chester's head from the Golden Gate Bridge, all her money -kept in a red bag- slips away. She tries to retrieve it. Two patrolmen (Kirk Fox and Jordan Lund) ask her questions, because they think she's trying to commit suicide, and that's when one of them see all the money and the head in the hatbox. Lucille is discovered and sent back to Alabama, where she could be sentenced to the electric chair.
Peejoe and Dove have been talking to FBI Agent Murphy (William Converse Roberts) in secret, but Dove is afraid of Peejoe's security and doesn't want him to testify. Nehemiah Jackson (John Beasley) is Taylor's grandfather. He's in prison as well, because of his demonstrations and parades. He gives Lucille something to eat.
Judge Louis Mead (Rod Steiger) is an eccentric man, who makes Lucille's children go away, in order not to influence the jury. At one moment in the trial, he wants to talk to Lucille alone. She's pleading self-defence and sanity.
When Peejoe testifies, he says that there is a deal between sheriff Doggett and Dove: if he doesn't accuse the sheriff of Taylor's murder, Lucille will not be given the death penalty. Later in the trial, Lucille tells the jury how Chester abused and mistreated her and her children -all with cinema stars' names like Marlon, Rock, Marilyn... (Dane Le Blanc, Dakota Johnson, Estella del Carmen Banderas and Jackson Isaacs) However, the jury isn't adamant to feel pity for her, and they find Lucille guilty on all counts. Outside the courtroom, Murphy arrests sheriff Doggett, who is unrepentant. Dove asks Peejoe if he had planned it all, and he said it just came to him in the spur of the moment. Dove tells Peejoe that that was something he couldn't run from, so that he won't have the opportunity to change his mind. Peejoe is happy about that.
Judge Mead gives a long speech when sentencing Lucille. He says the jury wants Lucille to go to the electric chair, but that he has never sent a woman there. He doesn't think she's a danger to anybody, except her late husband. First he sentences her to 20 years, then he suspends the sentence and makes it a 5-year probation sentence, if she seeks psychiatric counselling. Lucille can go free, although the prosecutor shouts and is really angry.
Outside the court, Norman is waiting with a car and a bunch of flowers. He and Lucille go away with all of Lucille's children, presumably back to Hollywood.
Back in Alabama, the town is filling the pool with cement, because a judge has ruled it should be integrated (be for everybody, not only for white people). Peejoe and Wiley find it ludicrous. They go away fishing with a black friend, and he says that now nobody has a pool.