"Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart"
*** 1/2 (three and a half stars)
The fascination over Pamela Smart, the New Hampshire school employee convicted of conspiring to kill her husband Gregory in 1990, has not abated in 24 years -- and Jeremiah Zagar's eye-opening documentary (airing later this year on HBO) points out the reasons why. Zagar interviews principals in the case, including Smart herself, to question the case prosecutors made against her. Beyond that, though, he explores the way the media, first through gavel-to-gavel coverage of the case and later in fictionalized versions (including a 1991 TV movie starring Helen Hunt and Joyce Maynard's novel "To Die For" and Gus Van Sant's adaptation starring Nicole Kidman), to confuse what people think they know about Gregory Smart's murder. Zagar's piercing meta-analysis serves to make us question everything we hear in the media, including Zagar's own movie.