Los Angeles, California in the early 1930s: racism, poverty, and disease color the Bunker Hill neighborhood where Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell), a lover of men and beasts alike, has arrived from Colorado to write the great Los Angeles novel. After six months and down to his last nickel, he orders a cup of coffee, served by Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek), beautiful, self-possessed, and Mexican. Arturo gets advice, encouragement, and an occasional check from H.L. Mencken (Richard Schickel), so he keeps writing and he keeps seeing Camilla. But, he's mean to her for no apparent reason, so the relationship sputters. A housekeeper from back East suggests a way out of his jealously and fears. "Camilla Bandini": is it in the cards?