Ulrich Mott (Christoph Waltz) is an eccentric and versatile social climber with grandiose plans to affect United States foreign policy. He is encouraged and egged on in his attempts by his strategically chosen (and much older) wife, the well-connected journalist Elsa Brecht (Vanessa Redgrave).
Mott has a knack for making himself indispensable and impossible to ignore, with an impeccable sense for when to flatter and how to deftly use political jargon to his advantage. The only one seemingly immune to his charms is Elsa’s daughter, Amanda (Annette Bening), who might simply disapprove of her mother marrying a much younger man or perhaps she senses something more sinister beneath the smooth-talking surface.?