Friday, March 18, 2011

Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy



In a lot of ways, watching Lifetime movies is like telling your friends a really great story that involves you getting wasted. As you're regaling them with a graphic account of the puke-dancing routine you created one crazy night out, and they're laughing their asses off, it dawns on you that you have some awesome stories, and then you think, wow, this is not the only story I have in which I drink my own puke out of a shot glass! I am a fuckin' mess!  What I'm trying to say is, often the most entertaining of Lifetime movies have a seedy underbelly that makes you a little troubled about the glossy story you're happily consuming.

Hayden Panettiere does a great eyebrow pucker
Amanda Knox is a mess too, but probably more of the "got crazy stoned and decided to play some sex games that went really wrong" variety. (Though something tells me she's seen her fair share of vomit.) If you don't follow media firestorms about attractive American girls abroad, you can find out more about her case here, here, and here. The more I read about it, the more confused I get, but one thing's for certain: Lifetime got it all wrong. (Not that I'm surprised.)

omg, she's so cute!
Luckily, unlike their popular bore of a movie "The Craigslist Killer," at least "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy" is entertaining. Most of that credit goes to Hayden Panettiere, who plays Amanda and who you may know as the cheerleader from "Heroes." Panettiere is an old Lifetime favorite (well, to me at least)--you might remember her from such films as "Lies My Mother Told Me" and "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke." She even has a holiday Lifetime offering, "If You Believe," in which she plays the physical embodiment of the inner child of a hardened book editor at Christmastime. It's pretty much the exact same plot as Alyssa Milano's Sundays at Tiffany's, except that the book editor doesn't end up having sex with her imaginary friend.

Anyway, I don't know if it's her Lifetime cred, but Panettiere not only gives the fresh-faced Amanda Knox enough pep to make you want to watch her turn evil, she also makes the movie's bad dialogue seem like Amanda just says stereotypical college-kid-abroad things, not that the writers lack imagination. She actually made me nostalgic for my European-traipsing days in some voice-over narration where she pontificates about how Italians see life differently (yes, I'm saying there's voice-over narration, and that I enjoyed it), and she's never cuter than when she's confessing to her new boyfriend that a lot of kids in school thought she was a lesbian because she was in sports and wasn't dating anybody.

But that's about all the writers gave Panettiere to work with, and they give us little more in terms of plot. Because Lifetime hates to air anything that's more risque than TV-PG, sex is pretty much absent in the film. In fact, they don't even mention that she's charged with sexual assault. Since the movie doesn't give a reason for why Amanda, her boyfriend, and a random drifter (whose introduced over half-way into the movie) killed Meredith Kercher, the movie is more than a little biased in favor of the young American. However, they still manage to sex-shame her: when Amanda says "ciao" to an Italian guy, her visiting sister scolds her for speaking to swarthy strangers, naturally, by calling her a slut.

In one of the few scenes with Meredith
actually in it, Amanda tells her Raffaele
looks just like Harry Potter.
As with everything, Lifetime somehow tries to make the Amanda Knox story into a romance. Her two-week-long relationship with co-murderer Raffaele Sollecito takes up much of the movie. They meet at a orchestral performance, and Amanda is taken with the fact that Raffaele knows that her hometown, Seattle, is in Washington State and is the home of Microsoft. "Most people say it's the home of Kurt Cobain and Grey's Anatomy," she says. (I guess Amanda Knox knows a lot of people in their 30s.) Soon, they're sharing picnic romps and dizzying carousel rides that signify their love-falling-in. Then, the police are showing up at Amanda's flat and she and Raffaele are being arrested on murder charges.

Like any Lifetime movie, the writers cover their gaping plot holes by having the movie be out of chronological order. (At least it's gotten more sophisticated than Lifetime movies of the 90s, when they'd show the most climatic scene in the movie at the very beginning, then "rewind" and show the entire movie (including that scene), just to fuck with you.) But it still doesn't make any sense. So they're in love, and Meredith tells Amanda to clean their bathroom once in a while, and then she's found dead, and Amanda and her BF are arrested, and the cops are mean (damn those worthless Lifetime cops!), but maybe they did do it, because their stories have holes and they were makin' out in the police station?

Italians: So unfair to attractive
teenage girls!
Meanwhile, Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Amanda's mother, teaches us the important lesson that if your kid is studying abroad and calls you up to tell you that she can't get back into her apartment because her roommate's been murdered, but that she's just gonna go stay at her Italian boyfriend's house and not to worry, GET HER ASS OUT OF THE COUNTRY IMMEDIATELY. Mothers and Fathers, when your college-aged kid runs off to Europe, make sure they know how much harder it is to be charged with a crime once you're back in America, where we love Americans (especially white ones).

Its typical Lifetime inaccuracies aside, "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy" is not only entertaining because the Italian actors call "bloggers" "blow-gers," it's also fun to watch Paneitterre act out the infamous cartwheels at the police station, and do her best panic attack/freak out when the investigators show her the murder weapon, and honestly, just be a young girl in Italy. I was one once! And one night I got really drunk and went dancing....

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