Shortly after graduation from high school in the late 1970s, eighteen-year-old Michael Romano engages in some teenage hijinks that gets him arrested in the New York City suburbs. With his plans to attend college put on hold, his father, the executive in charge of production at a large manufacturing company in Queens, takes him to work and puts him under the wing of Jake Cutter, the company's grizzled purchasing manager whose job is to ensure the factory line never goes down. The war-weary Cutter alleviates the horrors he experienced as a young U.S. Marine during World War II with alcohol, womanizing and a work ethic that is unrivaled. At first hostile to young Michael, who he derisively refers to as Michelle despite Michael holding the unenviable position of expeditor of parts, the two slowly and cautiously develop an indelible bond. Amid the relentless frenzy of daily production challenges, Cutter's incessant alcohol-fueled proselytizing, and rapid but unseen changes in the American manufacturing landscape - over the course of a summer the unlikeliest mentor plays a major role in Michael's transformation from a boy to a man.