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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

A Bite of the Big Apple


Plot Overview

Three images go by in succession: the round wheels of a miniature tape recorder such as might be used clandestinely, a formal dinner party of “hypocrite squares” engaged in lively chatter, and then a silent empty chair speaking volumes of distress. “Thomas Gruneman has disappeared,” a voice tells us. He was a research engineer for Tuscarora Labs in Pennsylvania who failed to return from a business trip to New York City six months ago in December. The police and the FBI have given up looking, so Tom's boss Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi) has hired local private investigator John Klute (Donald Sutherland) to find him. Although Klute has no missing persons experience per se, he was a friend of Tom's so might be motivated to pursue his investigation to the end.

The only lead they have is an (obscene) letter among Tom's effects at work written to call girl Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda). They have a theory that “A man will live a double life, a Jekyll and Hyde existence, and his wife will have no idea what's going on.” When Klute attaches him­self to Bree, he finds her living a double life of her own, a woman of the night trying to get out of the life (“My angel!”) after a john—whom she does not recognize as Gruneman—beat her up putting the fear of God in her. Klute adopts the role of protector with an unlikely romance in the offing, but (“We're so different”) who knows?


Bree is musical and at one point sounds out the chimes she's recalling:

quarter hour
Dear child of God
half hour
Be brave go on
three quarters hour
I am thy help
God will save grace

Then when she's trying to sleep and the phone interrupts her (“Who is it?”), the camera pans across her bed­side clock that reads 12:20. As her bed­time reading was a book Sun Signs, I'm taking this time—time is ultimately derived from the Sun—as a sign she's close to being a “dear child of God,” the quarter hour chime. Indeed she has for­saken her 6–700 johns a year life­style for humbler digs (“Jesus, do you think I'd still be living in this kip if I was still in the line full-time? I'd be back on Park Avenue”) while she's pursuing a career as actress or model so she can leave it altogether. Her repentance is not yet complete, but she's getting there.

Furthermore she calls upon God with a familiar table grace song: “We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing.” The most familiar verse continues with: “He hastens and chastens His will to make known./ The wicked oppressing now ceases from distressing./ Sing praises to His name. He forgets not his own.” (She actually sings an alternate verse.) To “forget not His own” corresponds to her (almost) being a “dear child of God.” “The wicked oppressing now ceases from distressing” corresponds to, (Prov. 11:19) “As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.” Her own turn towards goodness resulted in her being able to feel more for a man than numbness, while her Mr Hyde stalker (“I've killed three people”) will run into his own come­uppance. The “hastens and chastens His will to make known” corresponds to, (Prov. 3:11-12) “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth hecorrecteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” Ultimately the pretty woman's being domesticated.

Production Values

“Klute” (1971) was directed by Alan J. Pakula. It was written by Andy Lewis and David E. Lewis. It stars Jane Fonda, Donald Suther­land, and Charles Cioffi. Fonda's intense character portrayal won her the Best Actress Oscar and some think it her best performance. She had strong support from Charles Cioffi. The movie was rated R. Cinema­tog­rapher Gordon Willis really does for New York City's location shots. They abounded in sepia tones. The framing is enough to induce claustro­phobia, with its odd angles and fuzzy fore­grounds. The scenes with the woman shrink were shot (using the one camera avail­able) at the end of shooting after Fonda under­stood her character. Sound­wise, danger was presaged by high tinkling rather than the usual base thumping.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I liked the story as human interest even though the mystery was revealed early on. It deals with a seamy side of man's nature (“there are little corners in every­one which were better off left alone”) and a woman trying to find some­thing better and perhaps succeeding with either divine inter­vention or at least a sympathetic hand from a small town private eye. It was engaging and some­times thrilling. If you don't mind them skipping the car chases, you'll probably enjoy it, too.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars.