CBS Sunday Movie “Blessings” is so intent on tearjerking that it does everything short of coming to your house and kicking your puppy. Based on Anna Quindlen’s bestselling novel, meller should have a built-in fan base, but it’s hard to imagine the uninitiated sticking around for two hours of unrelenting emotional crises and death.
Eighty-year-old heiress Lydia Blessing (Mary Tyler Moore, made up to look incredibly wizened) is sole mistress of her huge estate, Blessings. She employs a young, tart-tongued housekeeper, Jennifer (China Chow), and is on the lookout for a groundskeeper, having fired the last one for not putting away his work gloves and making weak coffee.
Conveniently, Skip Cuddy (Liam Waite) has just been released from jail for his unwitting participation in a convenience store holdup. He accepts the job after a meet cute with Lydia in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Their attempt at peaceful bucolic living comes abruptly to an end when a teenage couple drops off their newborn daughter on the steps of the garage where Skip lives on the property.
In a recipe for disaster, the trio opts to keep quiet about the baby’s arrival. They settle into an uneasy routine on the estate, always keeping an eye out for intruders and family members who would snatch the child, Faith, into the foster care system if they knew she existed.
Moore, as ever, does a bang-up job, portraying Lydia as a woman who has always relied on her wealth and status to overcompensate for naivete. The presence of the tot brings up unpleasant memories for Lydia of her younger days on the estate, setting up a series of flashbacks.
These look period-appropriate and give more texture to Lydia’s brittleness — as portrayed by Janaya Stephens, she really had a big problem picking the right guys — but unfortunately, the repercussions are teased out as a “twist” that’s really quite obvious and discovered only when the action returns to the present day.
The pace is akin to that of a legit performance, which is always hard to pull off successfully on television. There are many scenes of the characters standing around and talking, alternating with scenes of them sitting around and talking. It’s not the most dynamic staging, and the lack of action makes the lessons of the story much more overt than they should be.
As one mishap after another befalls the clan at Blessings, subtlety goes out the window. All that’s missing are framed posters with inspirational sayings like: “Be careful what you wish for” and “Be thankful for what you already have” hanging in the background.