Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? (1983) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Zee is walking up and down Manhattan streets, talking to herself and to the husband who has just left her. At a sidewalk café she runs into Eli. A very unlikely, funny and touching relationship develops between two lost souls in the big city, which is the third major character in this film.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In New York City, a woman named Zee (Karen Black) tries in vain to stop her husband, Willy (Paul Williams), from leaving her.

    In a business office, Eli (Michael Emil), a divorced middle-aged man, advises his friend and co-worker, Mort (Martin Harvey Friedberg), to have a more positive attitude if he wants to attract women.

    Meanwhile, Zee walks the streets, talking to herself about how she could have saved her marriage. She stops at an outdoor cafe, where Eli and Mort continue their discussion at an adjacent table. A waitress asks to take her order, but Zee, who is flustered and tearful, changes her mind several times before deciding on a variety of chocolate desserts. Eli talks to Zee in an attempt to cheer her up. She resists at first, then asks him to join her. Mort eventually leaves, unnoticed.

    As Zee and Eli walk around the neighborhood, she points to an older man, whom she believes has been following her. Eli tries to calm her by taking her to see a movie. Afterward, Zee explains that she suspects her husband of hiring a private detective to report on her dating activities, in order to avoid paying alimony.

    They arrive at Zee's apartment, and, during the conversation, she reveals that she had once been a professional singer, before Willy insisted that she quit. When Eli suggests they become more intimate, Zee declines. However, they kiss goodnight before Eli leaves.

    The next day at the office, Mort recounts his latest romantic failure while Eli peruses a book about sexual activity in middle-aged men. Eli advises his friend to stop objectifying women, then complains that the book makes him feel insecure about his advancing age.

    That afternoon, Zee and Eli meet at the cafe, where she talks about her desire to have a child. Elsewhere in the cafe, a street performer named Larry (Michael Margotta) sits with his girl friend, Louise (Frances Fisher), and his trained pigeon, Eddie. Larry flirts with a young woman (Anna Raviv) at the adjacent table, angering the lady's boyfriend (Robert Hallak). Once the boyfriend leaves, Larry tells the girl that he fell in love upon seeing her, and they kiss as Louise reads a book, trying to hide her embarrassment.

    That night, Zee and Eli drink sake in his apartment, after attending a classical music concert in Central Park. Eli admits that he has "miscellaneous relationships" with other women, but would prefer to be in a "normal relationship." Zee is more interested in knowing if Eli saw anyone following her. Later, as they make love, Eli monitors his heart rate with a pulse meter.

    A few days later, Zee sings to an attentive nightclub audience, which includes Eli and Mort. Later, Eli tells Mort that as he becomes emotionally attached to Zee and feels increasingly insecure, as he is unable to gauge her feelings toward him. One night, when Zee and Eli are in bed, she declares that she is ready to have a child, but not with Eli, and disregards his desire to discuss the matter. Alone, Eli gazes wistfully at home movies of his parents' wedding.

    The next time the couple makes love, Zee is revolted by Eli's pulse meter and tries to remove it. Eli refuses, explaining that he can prove scientifically that he loves Zee more than any other woman by measuring his heart rate during sexual intercourse.

    One evening at the cafe, Zee, Eli, and Mort are seated at a table next to Larry and Louise. Larry recognizes Zee from her singing engagement and begins flirting with her. When Eli voices disapproval, Zee dismisses him with a condescending laugh. Larry takes Zee aside to invite her to his apartment for a sexual interlude. She accepts, assuring him that Eli is only a casual friend. After they leave, Eli is deeply hurt, but blames himself for not being more cynical about romance. Louise asks to stay at Eli's apartment, because Larry will not allow her to return home if he is spending the night with another woman. Eli takes her home, and they drink sake as he obsesses over his sexual activity.

    Meanwhile, Zee confesses that she accepted his invitation because he feels nothing for her. When she notices the amateur photographs lining his apartment walls, she suspects him of being a private detective, hired by Willy. Convinced that she is being videotaped, Zee looks into the imaginary camera and berates her ex-husband. She gets dressed and walks out the door, leaving Larry naked and bewildered. Eli and Louise awkwardly attempt to make love as Zee enters the apartment. She announces that her suspicions of being spied upon have been vindicated, then casually apologizes for hurting both Eli and Louise. She has also come to the realization that Willy no longer loves her, leaving her free to devote herself to Eli. Louise returns to Larry, who shows little interest in having her back.

    Later, Zee learns that she is pregnant and believes the child will be a girl. Eli already has a daughter, but is excited to have another. Zee moves into Eli's apartment, and continues to pursue her singing career.

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