Television is obviously a more suitable arena for domestic drama than theatrical motion pictures, but absolutely nothing in "Divorce Wars: A Love Story," tonight's ABC movie, brings to mind the best things about such films as "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Ordinary People" or the current and shattering "Shoot the Moon."
In fact, the film, at 9 tonight on Channel 7, seems presumptuously ersatz every step of the way. If it resembles anything, it's the bloodless cooing of "Making Love" (a.k.a. "Ken & Barbie Meet Gay Bob"), and though homosexuality is not an element of the story, considerable whimpering about wounds inflicted by errant parents is. The script by Donald Wrye and Linda Elstad manages a difficult but dubious feat: It cops out on matters it only pretends to consider in the first place.
As a crucially wrong first step, Tom Selleck ("Magnum, P.I.") is miscast as a human being--in this case, Jack Sturgess, a chic divorce lawyer with lots of glamorpuss clients and big anchovy eyebrows. Sturgess learns about midway through the film that his wife has tired of living in the considerable amount of shade he throws. Unfortunately, Selleck strides through the role as if it were a terribly sensitive fashion spread in Gentlemen's Quarterly. Can anyone who looks like that really be thinking about anything but how he looks? Selleck doesn't give any evidence to dispel the thought.
A self-deprecating flippancy suits him well, and makes him approachable on "Magnum," but here he is restricted to towering pseudo-seriousness; when he has an affair with a pretty and predatory law student, it's a cardboard consummation (in class, when he had asked, "And what's adultery?" she had replied, "Good stuff," and that's how subtle she is, and that's how subtle this movie is).
Plain Jane Curtin, the dull but stable Sane One on the old "Saturday Night Live" show, has little to do but wince and weep, and she never seems a proper match for the hulking Sequoia she has allegedly married. Director Wrye spends so much time in the first hour on strained comic relief--Charles Haid, given way too much tether as a deranged husband who plays cute tricks on his wife like tipping her Mercedes into the drink--that he never establishes a Sturgess family ambiance. The couple's two children, for instance, are about as distinctive as holes in acoustical tile.
Finally, the Sturgesses are just too well-off to count. The filmmakers behind "Shoot the Moon" and even the laborious "Ordinary People" made the affluence of the characters almost a character in itself; there was the implicit or explicit irony of The Good Life coming a cropper. In "Divorce Wars," one can't help thinking that the problems of people this comfy, and this dull, and this derivative, do not matter. When Selleck sets off on a four-mile jog listening to a recorded deposition on his Sony Walkman, the scene seems less a tell-tale sign of the times than something out of a beer commercial or a white wine ad. The Sturgesses are strictly from Inglenook, USA.