Jane Fonda won an Oscar for her work as the only-in-a-Hollywood-movie hooker who’s smart, good looking and deeply troubled by her lifestyle. This is a hooker that’s so Hollywood, she even visits a therapist on a regular basis!
Her name is Bree Daniels and lately she’s been getting strange phone calls. She also has the feeling that someone is watching her. I’m assuming that it isn’t so much that she’s pissed that someone is getting off messing around with her on the phone or that someone is peeping her, it’s that they’re doing all this without paying her for it!
While Bree is in New York City fuming over all the free samples she’s given away, we need to go to the heartland to meet the other half of our movie, Donald Sutherland. The place is Pennsylvania and Sutherland plays a small town cop named John Klute. He’s buddies with a guy named Tom Gruneman. Tom has gone and disappeared while on a trip to NYC and now his wife and Klute wonder why he hasn’t come back yet.
Uh, if you’re from Pennsylvania and you go to a big city full of hookers that look like early-seventies Jane Fonda, the only reason you’d ever go back to some burn-out state like Pennsylvania is to pawn your wife’s jewelry once you’ve run out of hooker money back in the Big Apple!
The FBI is no help and of course nowadays we’d just go and issue one of those Amber Alerts, like they usually do for guys that have gone missing with high-priced call girls, and just wait for the tips from bartenders, bellhops, and pimps to roll in.
Back then though, when a guy went and vanished with one of the ladies of the evening, the FBI could do little more than bring to the missing guy’s wife’s attention that he must’ve disappeared because he was leading a secret double-life full of perversions and kinks that his square old lady could not and would not ever satisfy.
Just for good measure the FBI says that even though we have no idea where your deviant hubby ran off to, we found these sick, twisted, type-written letters in the desk at his office. Doesn’t really help us with the case, but thought you might want to have them matted and framed for the living room or memorial service or something.
A year after the fact, the FBI still has no clue what happened to Tom, so Klute gets hooked up with Tom’s boss at the plant to become the tenacious private dick who will nose around the hottest hooker in NYC in an effort to ferret out the truth, no matter how often he has to stay in her apartment, protecting her and her miniskirted, bra-less wardrobe from unseen prowlers!
Once in New York, Klute goes to visit the woman that Tom’s lascivious letters were addressed to. It’s Bree and she gives him the cold shoulder. She’s already been questioned by the cops and it seemed that she was a dead end.
She reported that there was a john who beat her up pretty badly a few years ago and that that was the only one of her sick, twisted clients, that she could ever imagine sending sick, twisted letters like that. She didn’t know a name or remember what he looked like.
Bree really just wants to forget about that part of her life (though she still turns the occasional trick for pin money and stuff), because she’s seeing her therapist about getting out of the life and she’s also pursuing a career in acting.
Suffice it to say, Bree is much more successful as a prostitute than as an actress and her biggest part seems to come in the form of a regular engagement after hours at a garment making factory, where she delights an audience of a lone seventy-year old man (Mr. Goldfarb) with her one woman show wherein she portrays different sultry characters.
After Klute confronts her with the audio tape that he’s secretly made of the whole affair, she defends herself and her audience by saying that he’s old man and never lays a hand on her, he just wants to listen to her and watch her slink around.
Typically terrific mismatched buddy events follow. There’s dead ends in the investigation, some screwing, a pimp gets a Pennsylvania beat down, some domestic violence involving a stabbing with some scissors, and finally the big break involving a typewriter! Throw in a delicious dose of slut boots and this is the greatest 1970s movie ever after Billy Jack!
Director Alan J. Pakula has managed to make a tense thriller by using a deliberately understated style throughout the film – people don’t shout, there aren’t those false dramatic moments designed purely for the coming attraction, the movie isn’t hideously overscored like every single big new release today, and things are so low key and quiet that you can’t help but be held in rapt attention and then jump out of your seat when something noisy happens.
The most dangerous thing for Bree in this film isn’t that she’s being pursued by a killer, but that she’s fallen for Klute. She tells her therapist that she just wants to go back to being numb, because then she was in control. Ultimately she decides that being in control doesn’t necessarily mean you’re alive. A really well-made, thoughtful film that uses the script and performances of the two stars to make this movie about so much more than its stalked hooker premise would promise.
© 2013 MonsterHunter