A producer takes pity on her and gives her recording of her original song "In Another World" to manager Joel Millner (John Turturro), who wants it for his group The Stylettes. A hit, he gives her a job song writing. She spends the sixties writing hit singles for various artists, having unhappy love affairs, and sporting an endless parade of awful period hairdos.
Finally, in 1970, Joel ousts her from the hippie Idyllwyld Commune to help her record her long-dreamed of solo album, titled Grace of My Heart, which goes platinum. Her life is loosely based on real Brill Building hitmaker Carole King. The movie's original period songs were various collaborations with Brill vets and younger writers. Denise's big ballad, "God Give Me Strength," was cowritten by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, at director Allison Anders' instigation, and sparked further collaboration that led to their 1998 album Painted from Memory. Kristen Vigard was Illeana's singing voice.