Because she has offered so many different public versions of herself – from Vietnam activist to workout video mogul – it is difficult to accept Jane Fonda onscreen as anything but a slight variation of her persona. In Klute she plays Bree Daniels, a New York City call girl being stalked by a client, and Fonda doesn’t do much with the part beyond use it to once again play with her own image.
Perhaps that is why the scenes in which Bree and her therapist discuss the power games involved in her profession are the most forceful in the film. This is Fonda the social activist talking, and she mixes up feminism and the sexual revolution in one provocative performance.
Less fascinating is the thriller plot, in which a “square” private detective (Donald Sutherland) comes to Bree’s aid. The movie also has romantic intentions, but Fonda is at her most believable when Bree undermines them. Director Alan J. Pakula clumsily handles both the suspense and romance sequences, and in fact might have been better off forgetting them altogether. Klute works best when it forgets the cat-and-mouse games and instead watches the sex icon at its center try to transform into a feminist one.