Charlie MacKenzie is a beat poet living in San Francisco, and the older son of two Scottish immigrants (Stuart and May). His day job is unclear but perhaps he works at the coffee shop Roads where he performs or works nearby in the City Lights bookstore.
Charlie is unlucky in love, due to his fear of commitment. One of his most popular poems at the beat poetry night at Roads is “the woman, woman, woman” poem, in which Charlie tells the crowd why his latest relationship has failed. Most recently, he broke up with Sherri who may or may not have stolen his cat. Recently he’s also dated Jill who was unemployed, and therefore to Charlie, in the Mafia. And then there’s Pam who smelled exactly like beef vegetable soup.
Charlie’s friend Tony, who is an detective with the San Francisco Police Department tells him he’s paranoid. Then again, Tony believes the way to look hip while undercover is to dress like a circa-1970s pimp. He reminds Tony to act normal when hanging out with his parents the following night, and while driving to meet everyone he stops off to buy a haggis for his parents at “Meats of the World”.
We soon meet Charlie’s family – his brother William who has a pet eel, and his eccentric parents Stuart and May. They’re Scottish and proud of it. They have a Scottish Wall of Fame, listen to the Bay City Rollers, drink McEwan’s and watch the Scottish soccer team on television. Charlie has no time for soccer, and helps his mother make dinner while telling her of his breakup. She shows him an article in “the paper” – actually the entertainment magazine, Weekly World News – about a mysterious woman who has been marrying men under fake identities and then killing them on their honeymoons. To Charlie, this makes some sense because to Charlie, marriage is death.
Charlie soon visits “Meats of the World” again after seeing the owner, Harriet, in the street, and offers to help her out as his father was a butcher and he used to work in the store. After work they go on a date, and later spent the night together.
The next morning, we meet Harriet’s sister Rose. She explains that they live together, although Harriet often comes and goes but always winds up back with her sister. She warns Charlie to be careful.
As Charlie and Harriet become closer, she tells him of her life and many of the details seem to match up with the mysterious killer from the newspaper. At first, Charlie brushes this off but soon becomes paranoid when she begins to shout the name of one of the dead men in her sleep. After taking Harriet to meet his parents, he comes increasingly paranoid and eventually breaks up with Harriet worried that she may kill or leave him. After several days of feeling sorry for himself, Charlie is surprised by a call from Tony who says someone else has turned themselves in for one of the murders and in a fugue of elation, Charlie rushes to meet Harriet and apologize. She tells him she loves him, but that he blew it.
Luckily for Charlie, Harriet is a sucker for beat poetry on her roof and after writing and performing a terrible poem about her, she welcomes him back. Weeks go by and their relationship seems stronger than ever, when Charlie proposes to Harriet at his parents wedding anniversary. Harriet reluctantly agrees, and they soon marry.
Charlie takes Harriet to a secluded mansion for their honeymoon, a place where many of the original beat poets would stay. At the mansion, he receives a call from Tony saying that his original lead was bogus and that he faxed a photo of Harriet to the families of the three victims and it checks out – Harriet is the murderer!
Charlie doesn’t want to let on that he knows and tries to play it off as cool, but when the power goes out he begins to lose his cool. Tony is on his way, but has to charter a plane and commandeer a car to get to Charlie in time. Back in their room, Charlie admits he knows about Harriet’s husbands and locks her in a closet until Tony can arrive to arrest her.
At this point, he finds a note apparently written by him to Harriet saying he can’t take the pressure and that he’s leaving. This is when the true axe murderer is revealed – Rose. She doesn’t want to lose her sister, and says that Charlie is no different to the others. It seems Harriet didn’t know this either but is locked in a closet unable to help Charlie as Rose chases him on the roof of the mansion with an axe. Tony soon arrives and not knowing the truth, proceeds to put Harriet in handcuffs and is apparently oblivious to the axe fight on the roof. Soon he sees the error of his ways and comes to the rescue of Charlie who has overcome Rose.
The movie ends with Rose being lead away by the police, seemingly happy that she’s been caught finally, while Charlie performs his “woman, woman, woman” poem for the final time, now changed to admit that he’s no longer afraid of commitment.