A hot tamale tries to throw off a different sort of heat in this comedy of small-town manners. Carnelle Scott (Holly Hunter) is best-known in her hometown of Yazoo City, MS, for her unrepentant promiscuity. An orphan taken in by her genteel relatives, she idolizes her older cousin, Elain Rutledge (Mary Streenburgen), a former Fourth of July "Miss Firecracker" contest winner who is taking time out from her life as a pampered wife in Atlanta to give a speech on "My Life as a Beauty" at this year's pageant. Determined to follow in Elain's footsteps, Carnelle puts a damper on her libido and enlists the help of local seamstress Popeye Jackson (Alfre Woodard) in preparing for the pageant. She also implores Elain to let her borrow the red dress in which Elain won the contest in 1972. Meanwhile, Elain's brother, ne'er-do-well Delmount Williams (Tim Robbins), arrives with a get-rich-quick scheme that involves hocking the family estate. Into this mix steps Mac Sam (Scott Glenn), one of the men who contributed to Carnelle's scandalous past. Adapted by Beth Henley from her own play The Miss Firecracker Contest, Miss Firecracker finds Hunter reprising her stage role. The actress also starred in Henley's Crimes of the Heart on Broadway, although she did not appear in the 1986 film adaptation. Woodard and Steenburgen previously appeared together in Cross Creek. Miss Firecracker was shot on-location in real-life Yazoo City.