When last we saw Rob Lowe in a Lifetime movie, he was playing murderer Drew Peterson with a sandy mustache that made him look like the world's most dangerous park ranger.
Lowe has a much better vehicle for himself in Prosecuting Casey Anthony (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET/PT), in which he plays Jeff Ashton, the Florida prosecutor who last year failed to win one of the country's most notorious capital cases.
As the court announces that Anthony, who had been charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, is guilty only of misdemeanor charges, Lowe clasps his hands in front of him and – in a fine, simple moment – appears to have all the life siphoned out of him. His face has the pallor of a wide smudge of cigarette ash.
The rest of the country, as you may recall, was more visibly stirred up at the stunning verdict.
Nancy Grace, clips of whose hectoring, furious TV commentary pepper the movie, famously declared: "The devil is dancing tonight."
Anthony has been living in seclusion since her release.
Prosecuting Casey Anthony basically tries to explain how public opinion and the deliberating jury responded so differently to the conflicting stories of prosecution and defense, one alleging that Anthony murdered the child and dumped her in a swamp, the other that the actual cause of death was accidental drowning in a swimming pool.
Even though this is based on prosecutor Ashton's book about the case, Imperfect Justice, in the movie he comes across as overly confident – Lowe laughs in derision during the defense's summation – even while his team's mistakes are quickly seized upon and exploited by opposing attorney Jose Baez (The Office's Oscar Nunez).
(Ashton, by the way, was sworn in Jan. 11 as Florida's new state attorney.)
The movie is shot with a stylistic blankness that does no harm to a compelling legal narrative, and the acting – like Lowe's – is unmannered, believable and to the point. Since most viewers will already come to this with memories from the endless news coverage, any other kind of acting would probably seem like scenery-chewing.
Not surprisingly, Anthony herself (Virginia Welch) has virtually nothing to say.