Sunday, October 23, 2011

Klute (1971)

Directed by Alan Pakula
Starring Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland 
Rated R 

“I hope this doesn't make my cold any worse.”

Klute. Everybody's heard of it, right? Jane Fonda plays a prostitute, Donald Sutherland's in it, it's 1971. So far, so good.   But then you realize it's directed by the guy who made Sophie's Choice, and written by two creaky old TV hacks, and that it's two hours long and Jane doesn't get naked in it at all, and then you think to yourself, “Perhaps I'll just watch some porn and/or Family Guy reruns instead”, and then you go on to live a happy, productive life. That's what you would do, because you are a relatively sensible person. I went the other way, and watched the whole goddamn thing. Sigh. Let's get this over with.

Tom is missing, whoever the fuck he is. Some kind of executive from Pennsylvania. The cops are stumped, so John Klute (Donald Sutherland), a detective and family friend of Tom's, gets to work on the case. All they've got to work on is a dirty letter they found in Tom's office, addressed to a hooker named Bree (Jane Fonda).

Bree's in New York, turnin' tricks, auditioning for modeling/acting gigs, and smoking weed by candlelight. Klute shows up at her apartment to ask some questions, but she slams the door in his face. Bree doesn't talk to  two-bit gumshoes, man.

The thing about Bree is, she's pretty miserable. She sees a therapist weekly to discuss how much she hates hooking, but part of the reason she has to keep doing it is to pay for the goddamn therapy sessions.

Also, she has a weird Ziggy Stardust-esque haircut, and that can't be much fun either. This is the same hairdo that would later be appropriated by Stephanie Fondue in The Cheerleaders (1973), Cherie Curry from The Runaways, and Tegan and/or Sara. They all wore it better, quite frankly.

Klute's got her place bugged at this point, so he's keeping tabs on her as she trudges around the city, banging rich old Burl Ives-esque dudes. Well, she does a lot of yapping first. Not sure she ever gets around to banging them.

Eventually, she decides to let Klute interview her. She assures him she doesn't remember this Tom fucker, since she sees hundreds of clients every year. She offers to have sex with him so he'll leave, but he declines the offer and tells her to sit down and relax, because he just noticed that there's some unknown dude creeping around on the roof. He skulks around looking for the peeper, but it turns out to be a bunch of hippies. Roof hippies! That's pretty much the suspense highlight of the film, by the way.

Bree mentions that she met with some dude one time who beat her up. She says her old pimp, Frank (Roy Scheider) set the 'date' up. Klute tells her they're going to see Mr. Pimp the next day. And so they do.

Frank says one of the other girls in his stable set Bree up because she didn't like her. Says he never met the dude, and the hooker-in-question killed herself awhile back. So, kind of a waste of time, really, except for one detail: there was another girl, Arlyn, that also met with the punch-crazy maniac. Apparently she's a junkie now.

After a night of pajamas-sex on a cot, they hit the streets looking for Arlyn. Eventually they find her holed up in some dump, waiting for her  dealer to show up.

She's too freaked-out to be any help, so Bree takes off and heads to a disco, where she wanders around braless until she finds Frank.

She wants her old pimp back! Or does she?

She does not. She just likes manipulating dudes. Meanwhile, Arlyn gets snuffed, Tom is still missing, and now Bree is going back to her therapist to yap about Klute. Turns out she's got a thing for him, which is rare in her line of work. So she's mixed-up.

But what the hell, why not take a stab at happiness? They go out to buy fruit while jazz music plays on the soundtrack. Romance!

And then, back to the case. There's a mysterious black book and some more dead hookers, and then the shocking truth is revealed, although it's not that shocking, since there's only like five people in the whole movie. The end. Finally.

Jane Fonda won an academy award for her role in Klute. One thing's for sure, it's about a million miles away from Barbarella, so I guess acting was involved, but she's really just a talky sourpuss, and Klute is mostly a tedious, two-hour slog through her many persnickety moods. Also, as mentioned, she never gets naked. And she's supposed to be a prostitute? Disgraceful.

If you're in the mood for a good hooker flick, stick with Angel.

PS: A bright spot: Edith Bunker's in it!

- Ken McIntyre 


  1. A brief appearance by Jean Stapleton's worth celebrating, but Jane Fonda's unfettered nipples aren't? Oookayyy then....

  2. I actually liked this movie okay. Some memorable framing and mood, etc., though I wouldn't say it's something anyone needs to rush out and see. Thing is I tend to find Jane Fonda annoying more often than not. Her own persnickety personality seems to dominate most of her performances, so the idea of a hooker movie with her in the main role is kind of silly to begin with.


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