It is the fall of 1957. The Whitakers, the very picture of a suburban family, make their home in Hartford, Connecticut. Their daily existences are characterized by carefully observed family etiquette, social events, and an overall desire to keep up with the Joneses. Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) is the homemaker, wife and mother. Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) is the breadwinner, husband and father. They have two pre-teen children, a boy and a girl. As the story unfolds before us, Cathy's pristine world is transformed. Her interactions with her gardener, Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert); her best friend, Eleanor Fine (Patricia Clarkson); and her maid, Sybil (Viola Davis), reflect the upheavals in her life. Cathy is faced with choices that spur gossip within the community and change several lives forever.