Music Box, The: Costa-Gavras Improbable Political Melodrama Starring Jessica Lange (Oscar Nominated) and Mueller-Stahl

In The Music Box, 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, based on the charge that he collaborated with the Nazis and thus guilty of wartime crimes.

At first, Ann believes that her father is innocent, framed by the Hungarian communist government. To that extent, she decides to represent his defense, mounting a an attack based on gaps and contradictions in the case of the prosecuting attorney (Frederic Forrest).

However, she begins to suspect that all is not right. To her dismay, while conducting esearch, Ann discovers that her father has spent a lot of money to pay off a blackmailer.

In contrast to the urgency and authenticity of Costa-Gavras’ former political melodramss, such as the 1969 Oscar-winning “Z” (which was also nominated for the Best Picture), “The Music Box,” calculatingly written by Joe Esterhas of “Fatal Attraction” fame, is too simplistic and manipulative.

It’s the kind of political thriller in which the audience is always ahead of the filmmakers (and the protagonists, who’s supposed to be a bright and alert pro), 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 (“Shine”), is excellent

Oscar Nominations: 1
Best Actress: Jessica Lange

Oscar Context:

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

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