Errol Flynn, the movie star, was incredibly handsome, dashing, debonair --- and always remembered for portraying Robin Hood, the swashbuckling hero who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Who wouldn't want to be swept off their feet by such an icon? Sadly, the real life Flynn was a raging alcoholic with a reputation for bedding girls much too young for him.
"The Last of Robin Hood", researched, written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, delves into Flynn's (Kevin Kline) last affair with an aspiring actress, and teenager, Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning). Aided and abetted by Beverly's mother Florence (Susan Sarandon), a celebrity-driven stage parent, Flynn pursues this young creature with a vengeance, against the advice of counsel.
In 1943, Flynn was unsuccessfully tried for statutory rape, which severely damaged his image, as it should. But nothing could stop him if he saw something/someone he desired. Thus, he romanced Beverly, and they traveled extensively together despite her very young age.
All of it came to a screeching halt when Flynn died in Beverly's presence in October 1959 while in Canada. The press vilified her, and Florence, for allowing this relationship to thrive. In an attempt, and against Beverly's wishes, Florence and ghostwriter Tedd Thomey (Jason Davis) wrote a book entitled "The Big Love" to set the record straight. Though it was critically successful, it never changed the image the public held of poor Beverly and her mother.
"The Last of Robin Hood" boasts a brilliant cast. Kline, Sarandon and Fanning are equally terrific. It's eerie how much Kline actually resembles Flynn. He's enjoyed many fine roles in his career, and here he delights as the swashbuckler with another notch in his belt.
Kline is as irresistably charming as Flynn must have been. He also plays him as petulant and self-centered, a quality Flynn readily admits to in the film. It's a wonderful performance.
Sarandon is her usual dynamic self. Florence must have been one of the original "cougars", and we sense she would have immediately replaced Beverly in Flynn's bed, had she been asked. Sarandon's acting abilities are sharp and profound. She doesn't make us loathe this despicable mother, she makes us pity her.
Finding someone to play the young temptress wasn't difficult --- Fanning is perfect. She embodies a quiet sexuality that one can imagine attracted someone like Flynn. She's a beautiful girl and a talented actress, with a better head on her shoulders than poor Beverly who couldn't see the classic mistake she was making.
Which leads to my issues with "The Last of Robin Hood". Though I thoroughly enjoyed the performances, at times the writing perplexed and annoyed me. The transition of Beverly's feelings for Flynn from ambivalence in the beginning to supposed true love on her part was poorly executed. Glatzer's and Westmoreland's writing is lacking immensely. Why did this ethereal young girl fall for this much older man? We aren't provided with enough emotional information and impact to make this believable.
Flynn's encounter with Stanley Kubrick (Max Casella) over Beverly playing Lolita to his Humbert Humbert in "Lolita" is also very unsatisfying. There had to have been more of a dust-up than what this script gives us, thus the scene falls flat and becomes almost meaningless.
Though "The Last of Robin Hood" has the look and feel of an old Hollywood matinee, it doesn't provide the necessary spark of a true old-time expose. Perhaps, with all of the "celebrity" bad behavior today, this no longer feels relevant.
Opinion: Wait For DVD
"The Last of Robin Hood" features Kevin Kline as Errol Flynn, the king of swashbuckling movie stars, who died at age fifty. Now there is a film about the final two years of his storied life.
While there is a reasonable physical resemblance between the two, Kline is actually about 18 years older than Flynn would have been in 1957, when the movie begins. This creates a bit of a credibility gap given that Dakota Fanning portrays Flynn's real-life "Lolita", Beverly Aadland. Fanning is 20, but plays a 15-year-old opposite Kline's 67-year-old personage. What's more, Kline, at 67, is not nearly as dashingly good looking as Flynn was at 49, and it shows. However, once we get past this, and given the solid performances, it's not important.
As good as Kline and Fanning are in this picture, the movie, to a high degree, belongs to Susan Sarandon, who portrays Beverly's pushy mother and sometime manager, Florence Aadland. Once Flo (as Flynn liked to call her) gets over the surprise of her "little girl" auditioning for a role in an Errol Flynn movie, she is equally appalled that her daughter is actually in a relationship with the older matinee idol. And she doesn't hold back from telling Flynn her feelings.
But in the middle of a marital breakup, in dire need of financial help, and a burning desire for attention, Florence eventually succumbs to the whole idea, and even collaborates on a book about Beverly and Errol, unbeknownst to her daughter. This would ultimately drive a spike through the heart of their mother-daughter affiliation.
The beginning of the film certainly has a "Lolita" feel to it --- older man seduces (much) younger woman. Beverly used a fake I.D. so she could work at Warner Bros. studios where she would meet Flynn. Fanning displays just the right amount of youthful sex appeal and naivete to pull off the role. Kline is properly exuberant as the hard living, ageing movie star with alcohol, tobacco and drugs eventually spelling his demise.
When the two actors share the screen, especially in their most intimate moments, we believe they are a couple. Despite the age differences, they have a natural ease with one another that is neither strained nor deniable.
Yet I was mostly impressed with Sarandon's turn. It's one of the best in her career, and easily her best role in many years. Her Florence is sympathetic on the one hand, and detestable on the other. It's a performance that may resonate with struggling single mothers who are compelled to ride their child's career accomplishments, or in Beverly's case, her ties to a moneyed movie star, in order to survive.
Errol Flynn had a reputation as a womanizer. He was married three times, and his off-screen persona was reportedly as wild as his on-screen swashbuckling. By the time "The Last of Robin Hood" introduces us to his final days, he is a shell of his former self. But Kline doesn't overplay the part, and his performance is ultimately respectful to Flynn's memory.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!