Tracy works a dead-end job as a grocery store clerk in a drab slice of strip-mall America but believes he's found a way out when the acting bug bites. He falls under the spell of Z-list actor Truman Hope, only to become disillusioned after glimpsing Hope's true character. A friendship with bagboy Kendis Cooley leads to Tracy's next project: reforming a gang of surly, teenaged deadbeats. But again, Tracy's efforts fall short of his fantasies.
Tracy's home life offers little solace, with Agnes, his God-fearing, self-loathing mother, ruling the roost and sister Peggy looking for someone to love. Through it all, Tracy struggles to pass his driver's license exam, lose "about 10 pounds" and win fame beyond his working-class job.