The Widdicombes work through a family epidemic of almost life-threatening anomie in their elaborate summer house on Bainbridge Island.
Spend a head-spinning summer with the Widdicombes and their entourage in James' gleefully over-the-top satiric debut. Carol, the lady of the house, is set on becoming a New Age Mrs. Ramsay, hosting artists and writers in the mansion she is redecorating in a "bohemian Paris meets California cool meets Pacific Northwest Casual" style, angling for a feature in a décor magazine, winning instead comparisons to a "hotel waiting room…in Liberace's cerebral cortex." Her design process relies on the principles of her New Age guru and houseguest, Gracie Sloane. "Source Energy requires imagistic fuel to do the daily work of manifesting….It is to this end we pin our hopes and dreams to our Vision Boards." Gracie is holed up at the Widdicombes’ palazzo to work on The Habit of Wildness, a book that recommends "feral romping" and "whimsical savagery." The Widdicombe patriarch is a foulmouthed former tennis pro with so little to occupy his time he is nearly suicidal, until he mines his predicament for a self-help book of his own. Son Christopher, home from Rhode Island School of Design for the summer, is suffering even more deeply than his parents as his parody landscapes turn out to be actually gorgeous, and his cruel performance piece, "Son," results in unprecedented familial closeness. As their personal assistant, Michelle, puts it, "When all the Widdicombes were in one room, united in antic chatter, [it's] as though they were playing out scenes from an old screwball comedy." Contributing to this effect are another houseguest, a drunk, pill-popping lout who pretends to be a screenwriter, and their gardener, Marvelous Matthews. The latter is a longtime disciple of Gracie Sloane who is about to see his own Vision Board really come through.
Never a dull moment.