Doug Riley and his wife Lois have been living a half life since their daughter Emily was killed eight years ago. Doug has been having an affair with a waitress named Vivian. Lois has struggled for years, harboring a secret and devastating sense of guilt for her daughter's death. She's withdrawn herself and hidden away from the outside world, relying on hairdressers who make house calls, her sister Harriet and a local pastor.
After Vivian dies, Doug is lost. On a business trip to New Orleans he finds himself standing at a crossroads. Later in a strip club, a 16 year old lap-dancer named Mallory invites Doug for extra services in a private room. He turns her offer of sex down but ends up driving her home to a run down apartment. Doug makes his own proposition to offer her $100 a day for staying at her place in order to get his head together. No sex. No strings. Mallory agrees.
Doug calls Lois and tells her that he cannot come home. Then he and Mallory settle into a certain kind of domesticity even though Mallory is always wandering around naked and offering sex.
Helpless on her own, Lois, who was previously unable to make it 20 yards to the mailbox, realizes that she must take action to save her marriage. For the first time in 8 years, she manages to reach her car and starts heading south, after a couple failed attempts.
Back in Louisiana, Doug has tidied Mallory's apartment and begins trying to clean up her life.
Lois, with a paper bag ready in hand in case of hyperventilation, finally arrives in New Orleans and is shocked to find her husband living with a foul-mouthed under-aged hooker. After notiing the similarity between her daughter and Mallory, Lois decides to stay in the apartment as well. The three of them form an unusual family relationship.
Mallory balks when Lois tries to dissuade her from turning tricks and dancing, and they have a small row, whereupon Mallory runs off, presumably to work. She is subsequently arrested, and calls Doug. Doug and Lois pick Mallory up, but while driving back to the apartment, Mallory runs from the car. She explains when she turns back for a moment that she's "...not somebody's little girl. It's too late for that", and darts off into the darkness of the streets.
Doug and Lois realize that she not only isn't their daughter, she can never be, and they return to Indianapolis.
Several weeks later, Mallory calls Doug, and tells him she's on her way to Las Vegas. He tells her that he and Lois are there, and will be there, whenever she wants to call.