A band of misfits sets off across country with a traveling road show to take their dying leader home, in a disarmingly sweet tale of love and courage from McLaurin (Cured by Fire, 1995, etc.). When Wilmington, North Carolina, becomes a hot spot for movie- making, Darlene, a former bar girl and topless dancer, seizes the opportunity and is soon accruing a fortune at her House of Joy. There, she offers the kind of illegal extras—moonshine, girls, and a snake show—that the movie types are only too happy to pay big money for. The Captain (Cappy), dressed up in a Civil War uniform, acts as doorman; Darlene, aging but still a beauty, is hostess; Gloria is a dancer and provider of additional services in private; and Jubal Lee handles the poisonous snakes. Each is making the best of lives that haven't quite panned out as they'd been intended: Darlene wants to get back to the land she'd been saving to buy on the Oregon coast; Cappy is haunted by nightmares from his time in Vietnam; Gloria is studying to become a cosmetician; and Jubal, who had dreams of being an environmentalist, is haunted by his brother's death, for which he feels responsible. When a hurricane destroys the House of Joy's building and leaves a piece of glass embedded in Darlene's brain, the group, now homeless and jobless, decide to take the dying hostess back to Oregon. Setting off in an old bus, they're soon joined by wealthy runaway Kitty Monroe, who's fled Wilmington on the day of her wedding. As Darlene grows frailer and their money diminishes, the troupe holds shows along the way. They finally reach Oregon, where the now-blind Darlene dies; Cappy finds himself at last able to put Vietnam behind him; and Jubal, Kitty, and Gloria, surprised by hidden strengths, also find happiness. A southern Wizard of Oz, celebrating kindness and character and the way that—sometimes—they can be bonded together.
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