|It’s 1967 near McGill, Nevada. On a lonely stretch of desert highway, SHIRLEY, 37 and still single, picks up a mysterious hitchhiker in perfectly pressed denims -- call him JEANS. He gets her to change directions and go back the way she came. She drops him off at the edge of town, then returns to her quiet life as the local insurance broker. She’s surprised when Jeans shows up at her door and convinces her to let him spend the night -- on the couch. His strength is that he doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him. Her weakness is that all she cares about is what others think.
Shirley at first enjoys losing the battle with her “good girl” image, while trying to convince her best friend LIZZIE that he’s only a visiting cousin. Fascination turns to fear as she loses every power struggle from tuning the television to what groceries to buy. He watches TV until late, then snores loudly on the couch every night. When he buys her new clothes and blonde hair dye she snaps and kicks him out of the house. To her amazement, he simply leaves.
She searches for him in a kind of a daze, until she finds out that he’s taken up with Lizzie. Unable to confess the truth to herself, much less to Lizzie, Shirley convinces herself she’s going to “save” her young friend: she dyes her hair and puts on the clothes. Shirley gets what she won’t admit she wants, and what she doesn’t know she needs: Jeans reappears, and takes over her life.
The town is scandalized by the blonde hair and minidress. Shirley is rejected by the people at church, her garden club, and her clients. She even gets a scolding visit from her witchy MOM, who has long dominated Shirley from afar. She doesn’t know it, but this pruning makes her independent. Sensing that she wants control of her own life, Shirley tries to break things off with Jeans, but he ends up terrorizing her with her own car.
In town, Jeans drags her to lunch at the diner, kisses the waitress, and sticks Shirley with the tab. She drags herself home to find that he’s changed the locks on her house. She flies into a rage. They struggle, then kiss. She realizes with horror that she doesn’t even know his name. To the old Shirley this is rock bottom. Alone in her room she has an epiphany: She’s learned from Jeans what she needs to become free of him.
She plots a revenge that only the new Shirley could pull off -- involving T-bone, a barbecue, and purloined handcuffs. She strips Jeans of his anonymity; breaking free of him, McGill, and of her life lived for others. On her way out of town she spots him along the highway. This time she doesn’t pick him up. And that’s just fine with both of them.
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