Jane Fonda plays Bree Daniels, a high-class New York hooker who might hold the key to the disappearance of out-of-town family man, Tom Gruneman (Robert Milli).
Doggedly trying to unravel the mystery is provincial private eye and family friend, John Klute (Donald Sutherland), who is drawn into Bree’s world because evidence suggests Gruneman wrote obscene letters to her before he vanished.
Highly suspicious of the snoop, Bree refuses to cooperate – until Klute taps her phone line and uses snippets of the conversations to pressure her into helping.
Although she claims to have no recollection of Gruneman, she confides in Klute, telling him about an experience with a violent john – a ‘dumper’ as she puts it – who might have something to do with a string of anonymous phone calls she has been receiving.
Bree admits to being afraid but finds her anxiety ridiculous. Klute, however, senses that Bree is truly in danger. His hunch is confirmed when one night he notices from inside Bree’s apartment that the two of them are being watched.
The audience is left squirming in their seats, gasping as terror encroaches upon them.
During filming, Fonda improvised a few of her scenes. Director Alan J Pakula said; “There’s a scene with her psychiatrist where Jane suddenly explodes and starts talking about what she is beginning to feel for this man Klute and how it frightens her because she’s so used to being in control – and I could feel my skin crawling up my back, it was that moving and unexpected”.
Despite the title, this movie belongs to Jane Fonda. The role of Bree Daniels earned Fonda her first Best Actress Oscar.
Alan J Pakula