Only When I Laugh

Actress Georgia Hines is released from alcohol rehab and returns to her Manhattan apartment and her supportive friends: Jimmy, a gay unemployed actor, and Toby, a sophisticated socialite. She tells them she will maintain her sobriety and slowly ease back into theatre work.

Soon after, Georgia’s teenaged daughter Polly, who has been living with her father and her new stepmother, asks if she could move in with her mother. Georgia agrees, although not confident that she is ready.

Georgia receives a phone call from her ex-lover, writer David Lowe, who asks if they can meet. With a renewed sense of confidence, she strongly refuses and hangs up.

Polly discusses her personal suffering due to Georgia’s alcoholism, foremost not being allowed to grow up with her mother.

Georgia’s feels more confidence, even calling David to apologize and agreeing to meet him for dinner. At dinner, David presents his new script, based on their turbulent, alcohol-filled relationship. He wants Georgia to play the lead/herself. Furious that David brought her there for business, Georgia makes a scene. He calmly asks her to reconsider and she finally laughs, and takes the script home.

The reunion between Georgia and Polly is turning out to be a success. They go shopping together, flirt with college-aged boys who mistake them for sisters, then happily recount their adventure to Jimmy. They surprise him with a musical number Polly’s been working on for a school show. In the middle of their performance, Georgia abruptly stops to take a call from David, leaving Jimmy and Polly to sit in silence.

Georgia shines in rehearsals. When she Georgia confuses art with life during a scene and loses her composure, David consoles her and tells her that she is the only one who can do this part, tenderly kissing her on the cheek as he exits.

Georgia arrives at a restaurant, happily late from rehearsals, to find Toby in a foul mood. Georgia continues to talk about the play despite Toby revealing that her marriage might be in trouble. Jimmy bounces in with great news that he finally has been given a part in a play. Georgia congratulates him while Toby looks on in silence.

At rehearsals, Georgia brings David a gift-wrapped present. David is taken aback, then introduces Georgia to his new girlfriend. Georgia finally understands that David’s affections towards her were only as a friend. Just then, a disconsolate Georgia receives a phone call from Jimmy, learning that Toby’s husband has just asked for a divorce. Devastated for their friend, they agree to meet at Toby’s that evening.

Georgia is greeted at the door by an impeccably dressed Toby. Georgia keeps refilling Toby’s champagne glass while Toby reminisces about life as an enviable college beauty, an untalented actress, and then a perfect wife. Toby’s composure crumbles, and when she excuses herself to retouch her makeup, Georgia answers the door to a shaking Jimmy. He immediately starts downing champagne and reveals that he was just fired from his play, three nights before the opening, after having invited all his family and friends. Georgia retreats to the kitchen and proceeds to drink multiple glasses of champagne. She returns to the room tipsy and tries to rally her friends, instead shocking them when they realize she has started drinking again.

Polly, unaware of events, arrives at Toby’s with her new boyfriend. The three friends form a plan to conceal their problems from Polly, but Georgia, now very drunk, has an over-the-top reaction to Polly and her date. Polly realizes that her mother has relapsed, and that Toby and Jimmy are back to covering up for her. She scolds her mother for her insensitive attitude towards everyone around her, then storms out with her boyfriend.

Jimmy gets Georgia home, where she insists that Jimmy can trust her to be by herself. After he leaves, Georgia goes out to buy cigarettes at a neighborhood bar, but then sits down to start drinking and strikes up a flirty conversation with a stranger. When Georgia leaves, the stranger follows and violently drags her into a darkened alley where he beats her up.

A battered and bleeding Georgia makes it to Toby’s, but begs her not to call the police. While Toby tends to Georgia’s wounded face, Georgia continues to drink. When Toby tries to make her see how self-destructive she has become, Georgia lashes out and mocks her. A furious Toby finally expresses that she’s had it covering for Georgia, telling her to do everyone a favor and stop being such an “astronomical pain in the ass.” The two old friends share a tender laugh and hug, and they walk back inside.

The next morning, Georgia admits to Polly that she isn’t ready to handle the responsibilities of caring for another person. Polly feels rejected, again, by her mother’s decision. After Polly packs and moves out, Georgia starts to accept Jimmy’s consoling when she suddenly realizes that she uses her circle of friends to enable her behavior. The film ends with Georgia meeting Polly and Polly’s father for lunch.