I guess I can understand why those representing Amanda Knox were trying to stop Lifetime from airing "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy' (9 tonight). After watching the movie, I can't decide if Knox is guilty or crazy or both. I sure don't see her as innocent.
Of course, it's a movie and we've watched enough of them to know filmmakers always take liberties. In fact, in a CYA move, Lifetime is airing an hour-long documentary "Beyond the Headlines: Amanda Knox" at 11, right after the movie, that includes Amanda's mother, father, friends, investigators and legal types discussing the case. (And, apparently, a murder scene has been cut to appease the families.)
So, we should just think about it as a piece of entertainment, and as far as that goes "Amanda Knox" is pretty good. It's pretty fair too. Although it leaves one with a sense that there was enough reasonable doubt to avoid conviction, it doesn't let Knox or the others convicted off the hook. This is a complicated case with a lot of unanswered questions, yet you're left with a sense that you've been shown all that's known and left to make up your own mind.
It's an odd story: Amanda (Hayden Panettiere), a Seattle honors student, goes for a year of study abroad in Italy. Amanda seems a nice girl from a nice home. Her parents are divorced -- mom is played by Marcia Gay Harden -- but come together to lovingly toast their daughter, mingling easily with Amanda's stepfather and sister.
In Italy, Amanda becomes a roommate to three women, including Meredith Kercher (Amanda Fernando Stevens) and soon gets into a relationship with Raffaele (Paolo Romio).
Meredith and Amanda have conflicts; apparently Amanda is a bit of a slob, but it seems typical roommate stuff, certainly nothing worth murdering one over. It's an atmosphere with a lot of drug use and free love, and both girls, even studious Meredith, participate.
It's all typical college stuff which is what makes the crime -- Meredith is found in her locked room, covered with a comforter, naked and her throat cut -- sinister and bewildering.
The film moves nicely between the contradicting facts; we see Amanda and Raffaele seemingly acting unconnected to the seriousness of what's happened, even making out at the police station. But then we see the Italian police interrogating Amanda until she's exhausted, almost encouraging her to give them a story, any story. Raffaele points the finger at Amanda, Amanda points the finger at an innocent man. A found knife points to Amanda's involvement, but DNA evidence makes that evidence shaky.
The film, too, nicely shows the press and public relations game families in stories like these have to play.
Panettiere does an admirable job portraying a young woman who doesn't seem an easy read. The portrayal raises a question for any parent: If you don't know everything your child does when she is away from you, does that mean you don't know what they're capable of doing? Hayden's Edda would answer no. In the film, she's sure of her daughter's innocence, and Hayden portrays her as an optimist caught in a crazy world. She's stunned by this nightmare, but she knows this will all be cleared up and her daughter will be home soon. She even buys Amanda a one-way plane ticket before the verdict is read. There's a great moment between Hayden's character and Meredith's mother after Amanda is convicted. The two mothers look at each other, not saying a word, connected now by different kinds of loss.
Of course, Amanda Knox isn't dead, and has an appeal coming up in March, so we'll see how that resolution goes. "Amanda Knox," meanwhile, offers a clear-eyed and compelling view into a tragedy.