Along with BARBARELLA and THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY?, one of the best things the highly variable Jane Fonda has ever done.
When a research scientist turns up missing, his best friend, John Klute (Sutherland), a small-town police detective, goes to New York City in search of Bree Daniels (Fonda), a prostitute to whom the missing man had written letters. Bree, who is trying to switch professions, tells Klute that she
has been getting threatening phone calls from a violent former client who she also thinks has been following her. In the process of his investigation, Klute falls for Bree, though she has difficulty returning his affection. After another prostitute who had contact with the sadistic caller is
murdered, Bree finds herself alone in a dark warehouse in the exciting finale.
The film's predictable plotting is not its strong point, nor is Pakula's uneven direction. The strictly thriller aspects of the film vary from the artfully constructed to the showy but shallow. It's as if Pakula feels compelled to indulge all the conventions of the genre, but without quite knowing
why. On the other hand, he does ably highlight some of the more provocative and complex aspects of Andy and Dave Lewis's often fine screenplay. We see Bree calmly look at her watch while simulating passionate sex, and she develops a sentimental attachment to the lonely old man who simply likes to
look at her nude. Bree can, with perfect professionalism, explain that certain sex acts will cost clients more, but she also cowers from an awareness of her own vulnerability and realizes the painful contradictions in her life.
Sutherland is either an excellent sounding board for this nuanced portrait or he's a big zero, probably both. Fonda, however, transcends her limitations, making the most of her often forced quality as an actress. Bree emerges as likably strong yet dangerously weak, refreshingly intelligent yet
searching and confused.
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