MADELINE MURPHY (20s-30s) is Murphy’s Law Incarnate. She’s a fashion emergency. An infomercial “Before.” She has made Glamour Magazine’s “Fashion Don’ts” list more times than anyone’s pride could ever bear – but she uses her quick wit and charming resilience to rebuff being the butt of so many of life’s jokes. With her soul slowly dying working at a Super X store, she suppresses her dreams of following in her late mother’s bold and brazen stand-up comic footsteps.
JAKE MANNING (30s-40s) is a gorgeous guy who is humored by her off-the-cuff sales spiel riff on the mic at Super X. He tells her she should be a comedienne. Enamored but flustered, she fails to catch his flirtatious lob pass, so he resorts to inviting her to a dance class he teaches. That is…he teaches cats to dance…with their owners. This can’t possibly turn out well.
But Madeline is intrigued. She does have a cat that she loves: Alex. Right now, her cat’s just about all she has, except for her parrot, who she taught to welcome her home with “Have you lost weight?” and her best friend GABE, a very gay mensch stylist who you’d think could straighten her out a bit. She hasn’t spoken to her father since her mother passed. The thought of finding a man who could possibly be into her for her personality? Who might actually love her cat, too? Too good to be true. But certainly worth risking just a little more embarrassment, right?
Turns out Jake is a real dancer. An excellent, classically-trained dancer. Who knew? And he owns a successful dance studio. Problem is: his partner is the perfect, snobby, ice queen ballerina BELLAMY – that Madeline has hated since high school. It figures.
Worse yet, unbeknownst to Madeline, Bellamy is not just Jake’s business partner. Far more importantly: she’s his soon-to-be-ex-wife. They’ve been separated for over a year but Bellamy’s been delaying the divorce every which way she could in an effort to save face and get Jake back. Their business is entangled in their personal life and it breaks Jake’s heart to know that when they are finally divorced, he’ll inevitably lose the dance studio. So, it’s their shared love of dance that keeps them stuck together.
Madeline is clueless that they are married. But she discovers Bellamy is his business partner when she gets to the cat dancing class and overhears the tail end of the revealing fight we’ve just witnessed. When Bellamy encounters her unwelcome flash from the past, she demands that Madeline leave the premises. No fool, Madeline is the hell outta there! She turns on her heels but Jake insists, ever-so-sweetly, that she please stay. After class, he asks her out but, unable to endure Bellamy’s dagger stares or the unwelcome reunion with her high school nemesis, she declines.
Dealing with rejection and heartbreak once again, Madeline tries Internet dating. After several blind date disasters, Jake witnesses her worst humiliation at a bar: when a cute guy saves time by rejecting her straight away – during their handshake.
Madeline commits to change. She wants to look good and fit in for once. She’s ready for love. She’s finally ready to take the risk to perform. She joins a gym, gets some books and tapes and starts haunting all the local comedy clubs.
Jake visits her Super X and asks her out again. This time she says: “Yes.” The date, of course, starts out disastrously. While she’s getting ready, Alex catches on fire in his efforts to attack the parrot. Madeline douses him to rescue him, ruining her hours of effort spent trying to finally look halfway decent for a date. But Jake finds her endearing. He thinks she’s funny and convinces her to start the date all over again.
At the end of a near perfect date, he brings her to the Laugh Factory where he is friends with the boss. He’s made special arrangements for her to get up on stage but Madeline is mortified and escapes out the bathroom window. He catches up to her on the street and apologizes, explaining he thought she was ready and just needed that final push. She forgives him and they talk through the night.
Their dates start to go a little smoother (but not really). Madeline gets a makeover with a little help from Gabe (but more from his friends) and is gorgeous and ready for a black tie event. Miscommunication: he’s taking her to a Monster Truck rally. Mismatched as they are, they still have a ball. She’s still a total klutz but Jake doesn’t care: he can be himself with her.
He teaches her – and their Fellini-esque co-horts – how to dance with their cats. Madeline uses Cheese Doodles as treat to teach Alex to leap. Jake introduces Madeline and Alex to his cat and they have a romantic cat painting dinner date in his loft, which is right above the dance studio.
At an amusement park, she can’t handle stilettos so he buys her Tweetie Bird Slippers to traipse about in. It’s all going swell ‘til he tries to take a picture of her on the log ride and well…Madeline loses her balance and inadvertently swan dives down the flume (without the benefit of their log boat) – and ends up drenched with a concussion in an emergency room.
Conspiring the support of all the nurses, Madeline and Jake finally sneak in sex for the first time. It’s all too perfect ‘til Madeline wakes up the next morning – alone – only to have Bellamy charge in accusing her of being a home wrecker.
Madeline is livid to discover that Jake is not only married?! But married to her arch enemy?! Madeline refuses to allow Jake the opportunity to explain. Heartbroken, she falls apart. Finally, completely unfunctional, she gets fired.
Picking herself up and dusting herself off as she always does, she gets another job. But this time, she takes a few steps closer to her dream by hitting up Jake’s friend for a waitressing job at the Laugh Factory. She endures his incessant pressure to get up on that stage, claiming she’s the funniest person in the place and is wasting her time serving drinks. She finally agrees to perform on Ladies Open Mic Night.
Madeline goes to share her pending mini-break through with Jake at the Dance Studio. But she sees him dancing beautifully with Bellamy. In a dip, Bellamy sees Madeline through the glass and kisses an unwilling Jake for Madeline’s benefit. Madeline races off, freaked out – missing the aftermath: Jake has had it with Bellamy and demands their divorce once and for all – immediately.
Lost and hopeless, Madeline breaks down and goes to see her father. He is the only one she can talk to. She’s still furious with him since he broke her mother’s heart when he cheated on her. This affair, it turns out, is the back story as to why she and the precocious Bellamy hate each other so. Bellamy was the “other woman” that broke up her family with her wildly inappropriate student/teacher affair in high school. Now Madeline feels like it’s a sick twisted joke of fate that she’s sunk to both of their levels and finds herself no better. Her father explains that their situations are very different – and encourages her to follow her heart – and to stick to her guns – and not make the same mistakes he did.
Madeline goes to Jake’s loft and finds Bellamy, naked and airbrushed like a cat, waiting in his bed in her last ditch effort to surprise seduce him. But this time, Madeline realizes that Jake has nothing to do with Bellamy’s manipulations. Madeline and Bellamy get into a cat fight. Jake walks in on it and has to suppress his desire to enjoy it for just a minute before breaking it up.
When Madeline races home, she finds that her apartment has been ransacked! Wait a minute…no, it hasn’t. Her cat, Alex, has finally gotten in to the parrot’s cage – and they’ve both escaped! The parrot returns home safely (with a few choice words to say about his feline adversary). But Alex is still missing. It’s Ladies Night and Madeline has committed to do her new act. But finding her cat is suddenly more urgent. Or is it just another excuse?
Madeline looks and looks for Alex. Jake finds her and suggests that Alex might be back at the dance studio since that’s the only place she’s ever taken him in the city on a leash. They head over there and see that Jake’s loft right above it is on fire – and Alex is on the roof of the burning building.
Against everyone’s better advice, Madeline climbs up a burning building to save her cat. “She must be single,” an onlooker comments. Madeline uses a Cheese Doodle, one of Alex’s favorite treats she finds in her jacket pocket, to get him to leap from the burning build to the safety of her arms. Then she leaps with him to the trampoline below held by the firemen.
With Alex safely at home – and Madeline perpetually looking a wreck – she gets up on stage and keeps her commitment to her boss – and to herself. She does her act for the first time – and she kills! She’s such a big hit, she goes on to play all the big clubs in Los Angeles ‘til she gets invited to the coveted couch on The Tonight Show.
Sadly, Jake’s dance studio is closed. But next door? Jake’s Cat Dancing studio celebrates its ribbon cutting. All his Fellini-esque cat Dancing students cheer him on as he does his Cirque du Soliel-style audition to qualify or America’s Got Talent.