Take a few frames of the Amish-centered Witness, add just a touch of the miraculous mystery-solving of Agnes of God and you have a sense of the flavor of Plain Truth, a murder mystery debuting on Lifetime this week.
While this film has some of the same travelogue cinematography of those heavyweight films, and a similar location, this is definitely a lower-carb version.
Mariska Hargitay uses a lot of the monochromatic “just the facts, ma’am” style she demonstrates in her regular day job on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit in her role here, in another branch of the legal system.
As Ellie Harrison, Hargitay is a burned-out corporate lawyer who finds herself talked into representing a possible Amish child killer.
Instead of a Tuscan vacation, she’s thrust in the middle of close encounters of the livestock kind as she is directed to provide guardianship of her client at her rural home while preparing the defense against murder charges — without benefit of a landline or a battery recharger for her computer.
The basic quandary: suspect Katie (Allison Pill of Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen) denies even having the baby found dead on her farm, even though medical tests have proven the girl has recently delivered a child.
The attorney must determine is Katie crazy or just a big fat liar? Ellie must break down the teen-ager’s reserve — and overcome the strong fears of community and familial retribution that Katie fears more than the murder punishments promised by “the English.” Of course, to meet the demands of a contained TV movie, Katie, little by little, gives up the facts Ellie needs to get to the truth of the matter.
The locale provides extra color to what would be a run of the mill crime drama, but the whole enterprise is weakened by the performances of Hargitay and Pill. You never quite believe the bond between the two, or that Katie would confide so intimately with an outsider when every previous activity in the film — even those detrimental to Katie’s liberty and happiness — have been guided by her religious community.
But even with the oft-changing tale of what happened “that night,” a viewer may still find herself intrigued enough to stay with it until the end, just to see how Ellie will get her client out of the messy situation.
Our conclusion: recommendable fluff.
Plain Truth debuts Oct. 4 at 9 p.m on Lifetime.
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