Joe promises his girl Ellie (a brainless clinger who would once have been called his ""sweetheart"" -- ""your mother's made you a good girl,"" he tells her) that they will marry and live in a teacup full of roses, just as he has always told ""once upon a time"" stories to his younger brother David. Joe is in fact a supersweet and incredibly straight black guy whose only concern is for others, especially the brainy and neglected David and an older brother Paul, a heroin addict who is their mother's favorite. Joe's support for David ranges from advising him to iron his shirts to joining the Navy upon night school graduation and handing his own college fund over to his brother. In the end though David is killed as an indirect result of Paul's drug habit and Joe bids him a two-page blubbering goodbye on the bloody sidewalk: ""I'll make it for you -- I promise you, Davey. . . . You'll like it man. (You're going to) a real black love place."" Except for a few close-up views of pain and conflict in a neurotic black family, Joe and his story are as unreal as that illusory teacup.