Playwright Ivan Travalian has a new Broadway play (English with Tears) in rehearsal and the backers want rewrites. His wife, Gloria, moves out, leaving him with custody of their five children: four from her previous marriages and his own son. His two stepdaughters and his stepson Spike return to their respective fathers but two of the boys, his biological son Igor and his stepson Geraldo, remain with Ivan.
The producer of the theater production lies to investors, claiming that popular film actress Alice Detroit has already signed on to play the lead in the play. Ivan has no choice but to convince her to perform in the play over a dinner where she confesses that she is a big fan of his and would love to perform in his new play. She spends more and more time with him and then moves in with him and the remaining two children. One night Ivan explains to her that he was an abandoned baby who was adopted by a family with the Armenian name “Travalian”. Alice becomes depressed because she misses her former social life so Ivan eventually asks her to move out.
His two stepdaughters run away from their father’s home to live with Ivan and the police come to take them back, but Ivan and the children stage a standoff on the roof of their building, eventually convincing the police and their father to let the girls stay. Spike also returns to the house, meaning that all of the children will be living with Ivan again. Ivan decides that his wife should return as well so he takes a taxi to Gloucester, Massachusetts, to retrieve her. He finds her painting on a snowy dock with her new boyfriend, where she resists his efforts to force her to return for the good of the children. Recognizing her selfishness, Ivan eventually gives up and tells her to stay in Gloucester. He returns to New York City and promises his stepchildren that they can remain with him. They attend the opening night of the play and film ends with them reading a positive review of the play in The New York Times.