‘Don’t Divorce Me’ Delivers Heavy-Handed Lesson

No one could possibly quibble with the message of “Don’t Divorce Me!
Kids’ Rules for Parents on Divorce,” an HBO documentary — produced by
Rosie O’Donnell — about the impact of divorce on children.

The style, alas, is something else again.

At 31 minutes, the special — which premieres Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m.,
obviously aimed at reaching tykes as
Dontdivorceme01well as adults — hardly overstays
its welcome. But using six- and seven-year-old kids to deliver their
pleas directly to parents, complete with home-made signs saying things
like “Learn to get along for our sake,” can’t help but feel preachy and
manipulative.

O’Donnell has turned herself into a self-anointed
maven of such messaging, having previously produced “A Family is a
Family is a Family” for HBO, which — with a stronger political foundation, validating same-sex couples and parenting — felt considerably less irritating. The director here is Amy Schatz,
responsible for the channel’s “Classical Baby.”

My least favorite
part involved a kids round table, in which youngsters sit around
discussing their feelings and sharing divorce stories. The best moment
was the kid who said being able to divide and conquer — exploiting
guilty parents for two Christmases, etc. — is kind of cool. At least that was
a refreshing change of pace from all the angst and sappiness.

In essence,
this is just “Kids Say the Darndest Things: Divorce Edition.” Fine, send every child and
family counselor in America a copy of it, to show kids they’re
not completely alone in dealing with these situations.

But nobody really wants to be lectured to — even if (or perhaps especially if) it comes from children.

Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t separate myself from “Don’t Divorce Me” fast enough.

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