"Mother and Daughter: The Loving War," the ABC Friday Night Movie at 9 on Channel 7, is not nearly so overwrought and opaque as "Strangers: The Story of a Mother and a daughter," that guilt-edged greeting card CBS sent America on Mother's Day last year.
But neither does the film succeed at what it attempts, a three-generational impression of mothers and daughters within the same family. Instead of capturing nuances of complicated relationships, writer Rose Leiman Goldemberg seems intent on bringing up subjects like morning sickness, training bras and defloration just for the sake of daring to bring them up.
What lifts the movie out of its tolerable mediocrity and into enjoyable mediocrity is the presence of Tuesday Weld as, first, a teen-age daughter in 1948 who chirps, "Oh, who cares about the old Cold War?" and then, later the mother of a teen-age daughter herself coping with the changing mores of America in 1963.
Director Burt Brinckerhoff hasn't exactly done Weld any favors here, but even in awkwardly staged scenes she retains that provocatively tarnished radiance that has served her so well in so many movies that were, like this one, beneath her. Kathleen Beller, as her 15-year-old daughter, does another of her accomplished ingenue turns, but Weld gives the film both its glow and its backbone.
The years and decades are linked together with gloppy songs by folksy Harry Chaplin, whose tunes "inspired" the script, according to ABC. When Weld becomes pregnant in 1948 by a campfire, to "Moonlight Serenade," Chaplin's voice soon wafts in asking her the musical question, "What will you tell your Teddy bear?" Somehow we feel we'd just as soon not know.