Using minimal exposition, the film establishes an ordinary heroine with ordinary problems. Samantha, a college student suffering from Terrible Roommate Syndrome, has found the perfect off-campus apartment, but she needs to come up with the first month's rent in just a few days.
Pensively striding through the brisk autumn air, she starts looking for fast money by way of the flyers posted on cork boards around the sparsely populated university grounds. The picture is costumed and designed to fit somewhere in the decade between 1975 and 1985, but not in an overly conspicuous way. As much fun as it is to see actresses in their feathered hair, using enormous tape players and headphones, nothing screams out with quotation marks or exclamation points. Rather, the ambiguous feel of time and place works to slow the pace down enough to make the sudden ring of a lonely pay phone startle you. (There's no mobile calling in this town.)
A tear-off flyer advertises a babysitting gig that could be just lucrative enough, but there are also enough red flags to worry Samantha's best friend (Greta Gerwig) who agrees to drive her out to the Ulman house to meet the prospective employers. (The gig is naturally located in an isolated lot adjacent to the cemetery .) The deal is simple. If things are too weird with the arrangement, Samantha will abort the plan and they will leave.