Hayden Panettiere as Amanda Knox on trial

Hayden Panettiere's next film is ripped from the

Hayden Panettiere's next film is ripped from the headlines. She plays Amanda Knox, the U.S. student in Italy convicted of killing her roommate. The families on both sides are not happy with the film which airs on Lifetime Monday, Feb. 21 at 9pm. AP video. (Feb. 15)

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Hayden Panettiere's next film is ripped from the Controversial role

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THE TV MOVIE "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy"

WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on Lifetime

REASON TO WATCH Ripped-from-the-headlines TV movie

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A police car stops outside a small house overlooking the village of Perugia. Outside are two young lovers, Amanda Knox (Hayden Panettiere) and Raffaele Sollecito (Paolo Romio). At first, they seem a bit surprised to see the cops, but then Sollecito says he had called an emergency number because someone had broken into the house. A window's smashed, plus the door to the room of Knox's roommate, Meredith Kercher (Amanda Fernando Stevens), is locked. No one can find Kercher. The police come in . . . and a murder victim, just 21, is discovered.

Knox's mother, Edda Mellas (Marcia Gay Harden), gets a disturbing call from her daughter. You know the rest of the story well: Knox is eventually charged with Kercher's November 2007 murder, and was sentenced to 26 years, Sollecito to 25.

MY SAY "Murder on Trial in Italy" has already taken plenty of heat. Kercher's father, Jon, has called the re-enactment scenes "absolutely horrific," while Knox's lawyers even wanted Lifetime to shelve the movie. But as carefully written as "Murder" is by veteran TV writer Wendy Battles, it still ends up as an exercise in creative dissonance that will satisfy neither the pro- nor anti-Knox forces - nor particularly trouble them either.

Panettiere's performance is deeply sympathetic but also tends to be one dimensional. You're left with the sense that she wants to believe Knox even when the evidence suggests that she shouldn't. Meanwhile, Italian prosecutor Guiliano Mignini (Vincent Riotta) starts out as an unyielding, bumptious martinet who is ultimately redeemed by Knox and Sollecito's lies. For viewers, this ride can be a bumpy, uncertain one. Seen in their private moments, the young lovers are innocents unaware of the growing forces arrayed against them - until their lies obliterate that impression.

BOTTOM LINE Knox is neither absolved nor condemned, and you'll end up with more questions that you began with. But pay close attention: There are many telling little details throughout.

GRADE B

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