It seems odd to describe a Lifetime movie as 'serious minded,' but that's the word that comes to mind when watching "Prosecuting Casey Anthony" (8 tonight, Lifetime). While not completely without notes of melodrama, the movie presents a clear-eyed and illuminating look at the 'Tot Mom' case.
As the title suggests, the story is told through the perspective of the prosecutor Jeff Ashton (Rob Lowe); he's being interviewed by a TV reporter trying to figure out, as we all are, how he lost the case. Ashton was near retirement and longing for one last case after a near-perfect winning career record. He's brought on by Linda Burdick (Elizabeth Mitchell) who respects his forensic know-how; the third person on the team is Frank George (David Richmond-Peck).
Casey Anthony (Virginia Welch) isn't in the film much; we experience her much like we did in the trial. We see her on video and reacting during the trial, which is a smart decision on the filmmakers' part. Anthony's defense attorney Jose Baez (Oscar Nunez), is both flamboyant and underrated. There's also Anthony's sad/pathetic parents Cindy (Marina Stephenson Kerr) and George (Kevin Dunn).
The story line stays focused on the case, including appearances by Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell, except to show through Ashton's relationship with his wife Rita (Marisa Ramirez), how obsessed he becomes with the case.
And he was obsessed, mostly, it seems because Anthony's guilt seemed so obvious, the case such a slam dunk, that every setback, every tactic that Baez came up with seemed to confound the defense. Although squarely in Ashton's court, the film doesn't skirt over the prosecution's mistakes. They were outplayed by Baez, for whom Ashton seems to have real disdain.
Lowe, who also executive produced, is fine as Ashton; he doesn't overplay the emotion (despite the occasional dramatic pause). You get the sense of a man who is highly competent and tightly wound. And maybe a little to confident for his own good.
And maybe for the good of Caylee.