Joel is met by the lady of the house, Amy Skully (Anna Levine) who, along with her cousin Randolph (Lothaire Bluteau), are the last remnants of their family living on the estate. Aside from their servant Jesus, they also have a young black woman Zoo (April Turner) working for them as cook and maid.
Joel's demands to see his father are rebuffed by both Amy and Randolph, with the excuse that he is too sick, and instead Randolph strives to amuse and entertain the young boy. It's obvious that he has no idea of what to do with a child, or what interests them, but since Randolph is fascinated with Randolph, he figures everybody must be.
When Joel finally does get to see his father, he finds him to be bedridden and unable to move. He wants to know what's going on and why it was that Randolph wrote the letter pretending to be Joel's father. Randolph says that neither he nor Amy could bear the thought of their dear friend's son growing up an orphan.
Randolph seems almost desperate to amuse and befriend Joel. He regales him with stories of fancy dress balls and the time he and Joel's father spent in Havana. Joel's father was a boxing promoter and they were touring with one of his prizefighters (Pepe), and Randolph's girlfriend, Dolores.
But complications arose one night after a fancy dress ball, when Dolores dressed Randolph as Marie Antoinette, and he spent the whole night dancing with Pepe. While Randolph was falling in love with Pepe; Dolores and Pepe were having an affair.
Randolph is charming and irresponsible; melodramatic and flamboyant; and incredibly self-indulgent. But he is able to win Joel over as a friend and companion and gradually brings him into his world. They have fun together painting and reading and gradually Joel comes to accept Randolph as a sort of surrogate father/best friend.
We know there is something rotten at the heart of all this charm. The run down plantation house with its chipped plaster and paint peeled walls is all too indicative of something decaying for the place to be healthy. Overgrown with weeds, the life is being choked out of the grounds, just as the people living there are slowly suffocating.
Lothaire Bluteau's (best known for his starring role in Jesus of Montreal) depiction of Randolph is magnificent. He is easy to love and despise all in the same breath. He is like a child who has continuously been given his own way, and had every wish indulged when through no fault of his own, he all of sudden finds the carpet pulled out from under him.