September 30, 2015
Klute (1971)
Grade: 66/100

Director: Alan J. Pakula
Stars: Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Roy Scheider

What it's about. Family man and business executive Tom Gruneman (Robert Milli) becomes a missing person. A police investigation reveals only that he wrote abhorrent letters to New York City prostitute Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda).

The police give up, and Gruneman's business associate Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi) hires Gruneman's friend John Klute (Donald Sutherland) to investigate. The humorless Klute journeys to New York, where he finds Daniels uncooperative. He illegally records her phone conversations, and determines that she is being stalked by some creep, presumably Gruneman.

Because it is a movie, the humorless and uncorruptible Klute begins an affair with angry yet vulnerable Daniels. Soon, Daniels is actively helping Klute's investigation, introducing him to smug pimp Ligourin (Roy Scheider) and anxious, drug-addicted Arlyn Page (Dorothy Tristan). The latter has had encounters with a violent John who could be Gruneman.

We suspect that the dangerous and unstable man stalking Jane Fonda will corner her alone in the finale, similar to Wait Until Dark and many other movies, and that Donald Sutherland will come to her rescue. This of course happens, with the expected result.

In other interesting roles, Morris Strassberg is a wealthy and elderly client of Daniels; Jean Stapleton is Strassberg's grating secretary; and Vivian Nathan is Daniels' unflappable shrink.

How others will see it. Klute was only a modest box office success, with the audience limited by its "R" rating. Jane Fonda's performance was praised, and she won Best Actress at both the Golden Globes and Oscars. The screenplay was nominated by both those awards festivals.

Interestingly, director Alan J. Pakula was ignored in the roll call of award nominations, and in fact his only Best Director nod at BAFTA, the Oscars, or the Golden Globes came with his landmark 1976 film, All the President's Men.

Today at, Klute has a respectable 15K user votes and a middling-to-high user rating of 7.2 out of 10. Men in their 30s grade it lowest (7.0) while women over 45 grade it highest (7.9). The latter demographic may like the happy ending, which leaves the lovers united, the villain dead, and Jane Fonda out of the prostitution business.

How I felt about it. The plot of this movie is audience pleasing, more than it is credible. Sutherland has conflicting motivations: to find Gruneman, and protect Fonda. To do the former imperils the latter. Sutherland's stone-faced persistence also puts his own life at risk, and one wonders why he has such an interest in Gruneman who is either dead or obsessed with terrorizing prostitutes.

Also odd is that Peter Cable hires a man whose dogged investigation leads right back to Cable. It is as if Cable wants to be caught. I know that handguns are illegal in New York City, but it seems strange that between Sutherland, Fonda, Scheider, and Cable, none of them are packing heat, given that times arise when having a gun would definitely be of service.

It is also odd that Sutherland allows himself to be seduced by Fonda, after rejecting her advances several times before. We also wonder why Fonda seems broke despite the money she makes from Johns. She does not have a drug addiction. Is she spending it all on her shrink?

In the climax, Cable confronts Fonda with a reel-to-reel recording of his murder of Page. We are to believe that Cable, stalking Fonda, totes around with him a reel-to-reel recorder? And if so, wouldn't he use it to record his encounter with Fonda, as he did with Page, instead of playing it back to Fonda?

The plot is unconvincing, but we do admire the cast, and Pakula deserves credit for making the film worth the time it takes to see it.