Oscar Movies: Music Box, The–Directed by Costa Gavras

In Costa-Gavras’ improbable political melodrama, Jessica Lange plays Ann Talbot, an attorney whose Hungarian-immigrant father, Michael Laszlo (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is “suddenly” arrested.

Laszlo is threatened with deportation for lying about his activities during World War II, based on the charge that he was a Nazi collaborationist, guilty of wartime atrocities.

At first, Ann believes that her father is being railroaded by a revenge-seeking communist government. To that extent, she decides to represent his defense, mounting a an attack based on expertly blowing gaps in the case of the prosecuting attorney (Frederic Forrest).

However, in doing her own research, Ann discovers that her father has spent huge amounts of money paying off a blackmailer. In contrast to the fervent authenticity of his earlier political melodramss, such as the 1969 Oscar-winning “Z,” “The Music Box” (calculatingly written by Joe Esterhas of “Fatal Attraction” fame) is too simplistic.

It’s the kind of political thriller in which the audience is always ahead of the filmmakers (and protagonists), resulting in a manipulative agit-prop. Despite the major shortcomings, however, the acting, particularly of Lange, who won a Best Actress
Oscar nomination, and Mueller-Stahl, is excellent

Oscar Nominations: 1
Best Actress: Jessica Lange

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Jessica Tandy for “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Credits
MPAA: PG-13
Running time: 126 Minutes.
Directed by Costa-Gavras
Written by Joe Eszterhas
DVD: May 20, 2003