Rose Chismore (Annabeth Gish) is a shy, gawky and newly bespectacled teen living in 1950's Las Vegas. Besides new casinos popping up all over town, everyone is talking about the A-bomb and preparing for A-bomb tests. With feelings of both excitement and trepidation, the Chismore Family eagerly awaits the aboveground nuclear bomb that will detonate at the government test sight in a few weeks.
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Rose resides with her mother Lily (JoBeth Williams), a flighty gambler who just happens to work at a casino, her abusive stepfather Jack (Jon Voight), a shell-shocked and alcoholic World War II hero and her two younger half-sisters. While oblivious Lily happily whips up cream of mushroom soup casseroles and paints a sunny, optimistic view of life to her daughters, Rose clearly sees that things in their dysfunctional household are not right. If Jack is not sleepwalking at night, convinced that he is still deep in combat, then he is drunk, cruel and angry, directing all of his rage and violence at Rose. Lily makes feeble apologies and excuses for Jack‘s behavior, urging Rose to try harder and to be a good girl. To escape the turmoil, Rose immerses herself with studying for an upcoming spelling bee and begins flirting with local cutie Robin (Jay Underwood).
Life in the turbulent Chismore home is about to meet with even more upheaval when Lily's sexy younger sister, Aunt Star (Ellen Barkin), comes to visit. Rose is overjoyed about Star's arrival, yet saddened to hear that Star and her husband are having problems. After Star's husband serves her with divorce papers, she is on the prowl, attracting local men and hoping to meet another Mr. Right. Star helps her with grooming and clothing and offering advice on how to deal with volatile Jack. Most importantly, Star listens to what Rose has to say, something Lily does not have time to do. As A-bomb testing day gets closer, Jack's drinking and temper gets worse. In a drunken stupor, Jack manages to embarrass himself (and Rose) when important suits from the Atomic Energy Commission arrive in town.
On the day that she wins the school spelling bee (and on the eve of the A-bomb test), Rose returns home to catch Jack and Star in a compromising situation. Confused and disgusted, Rose flees the house, suitcase in hand. When Lily asks why Rose ran away and receives Star's incomprehensible explanation, much punching, slapping, hair pulling and screaming ensue. It is decidedly bad timing as company is coming to celebrate the A-bomb.
Concerned and guilty, Jack sets off in search of Rose. Jack hopes there is still time to explain himself and begin a relationship with his stepdaughter, before an explosion worse than the A-bomb destroys the family.
The review of this Movie prepared by Tara Dugan