Sixteen year old Chloe Lindstrom and her family live crammed into a tiny tenement apartment on the Lower East Side of New York. To compensate for the failings of her weak and irresponsible mother, Katy, she takes care of her senile grandfather, Emmett, and tries to hold her family together. She handles the chaos of her home life and the aggressive advances of her homeboy-wannabe boyfriend, Pogan, by seeking solace in drugs and taking refuge in the bathroom, the only place she can find quietude in her bleak world.
Chloe hears that her real father, Lee, has returned to New York from Amsterdam, where he was a successful avant-garde theater director, and has now put himself out to pasture as a professor of drama. Without revealing who she is, Chloe begins to sit in on his classes. She’s not there to study theater, she’s there to study her father.
Lee has arranged for his theater company Anarchist Survival Studies (A.S.S.) to perform in New York. When this strange band of international urban nomads arrive from Europe, pierced, tattooed, dirty and dreadlocked, they take up residence in Lee’s sterile university apartment. Chloe adopts this strange band of outsiders as her second family and she fits right in. She’s like her dad: brash, sharp-tongued and arrogant.
A.S.S.’s danger-laden, visually exquisite, mind-fuck performance piece is a critical success, but during the show the associate dean of the university has his hip broken by one of Lee’s menacing performance machines. A.S.S. returns to Amsterdam and shortly afterward Lee is fired.
In a teenage lapse of responsibility, Chloe leaves her grandpa alone and he severely injures himself. When he’s hospitalized, Katy and her parolee boyfriend, Frank, seize the opportunity to put him in a nursing home and take control of his remaining assets.
Chloe’s grandfather’s condition has deteriorated severely. Her boyfriend has ditched her. Her father has gone home. Overwhelmed, Chloe drops acid at a rave and has frightening insights into her grandfather’s psyche. Later that night she sneaks into her grandfather’s nursing home where she finds him drugged and restrained, in pain and disoriented. Worst of all, he doesn’t recognize Chloe and her presence seems to panic him.
Lee has returned to Amsterdam and his strange family. Chloe will follow later, but not before she “frees” her grandfather.
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