In this valentine to modern romance, book superstore magnate Joe Fox and independent book shop owner Kathleen Kelly fall in love in the anonymity of the Internet -- both blissfully unaware that he's trying to put her out of business.
Based on the successful 1956 Broadway production of the same name by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne, the film focuses on Ella Peterson, who works in the basement office of Susanswerphone, a telephone answering service. Peterson, based on Mary Printz, who worked at Green's service, listens in on others' lives and adds some interest to her own humdrum existence by adopting different identities for her clients. They include an out-of-work Method actor, a dentist with musical yearnings, and in particular playwright Jeffrey Moss, who is suffering from writer's block and desperately needs a muse.
Reverend Brooks leads the town in a contest to stop smoking for a month, But some tobacco executives don't want them to win, and try everything they can to make them smoke. If townspeople don't go nuts, from wanting a cigarette, or kill each other from irritation and frustration, they will will a huge prize.
Sylvia Barrett is a rookie teacher at New York's inner-city Calvin Coolidge High: her lit classes are overcrowded, a window is broken, there's no chalk, books arrive late. The administration is concerned mainly with forms and rules (there's an up and and a down staircase); bells ring at the wrong time. Nevertheless, she tries. How she handles the chaos and her despair in her first semester makes up the film: a promising student drops out, another sleeps through class, a girl with a crush on a male teacher gets suicidal, and a bright but troublesome student misunderstands Sylvia's reaching out. A discussion of Dickens, parents' night, and a mock trial highlight the term. Can she make it?