'The Last of Robin Hood'
Ronald Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's The Last of Robin Hood is an enjoyable specimen of the low-budget Hollywood biopic. Errol Flynn's movies have aged badly, but we can still remember the purpose for a rogue with a talent to amuse, demonstrating the invaluable function of wastrels. Flynn was a courtly, lazy, irresistible character; such an agnostic about the gods of good behavior that he made a question mark his personal monogram.
It begins with death of Flynn (Kevin Kline), who went out before his last scandal. He was carrying on with a minor: Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning) a 15 year old posing as a 20 year old. Beverly had been a chorus girl on an unnamed studio lot, here set up for a supposed audition: this turned into a night of pink champagne and a quick, harsh loss of virginity on the proverbial casting couch, with Flynn's personal assistant taking her home in tears. Beverly assumes she's been used and dropped by the fading star, but he returns to declare his love and to make amends.
Students of Flynn's wicked life will recall that he'd already been in the dock for a double-helping of statutory rape charges (allegedly the LA district attorney dressed the defendants up with braids and pinafores). The open question in The Last of Robin Hood is how much Beverly's mother connived in the affair.
Flo (Susan Sarandon) was a stage-mother, a dancer whose career ended after a drunken auto accident; Sarandon, her big eyes magnified by cat's-eye specs, plays a half-bright, shrewd person who wanted her daughter to go to the big time, but hadn't thought through possible consequences. Flo never comes off as completely ridiculous. In a particularly good scene, Flynn, listening to the sad story of her life, shows clouded, diplomatic sympathy—fuzzy from drink, he's posed. "Be a good listener," Flo tells Beverly when she says she's going out for the "audition"; Flynn is a good listener in that barbed sense of the term.
Flo has a wooden leg, and so does this movie. Somewhere along the line Glatzer and Westmoreland envisioned this as a Lolita story, on the grounds that Stanley Kubrick (played here by Max Casella) had thought of casting Flynn as Humbert Humbert. The Last of Robin Hood is more like Kubrick's film-to-be, and less like the novel in question. (Kubrick doesn't want to cast Aadland: "She's too old for the part," he says, sensibly.) Showy references persist—Flynn calling Beverly "Light of my life, fire of my loins" at a party, for instance. For some reason Beverly doesn't mind that, even though she finds Flynn's Shakespeare quotes corny.
The Last of Robin Hood is straightjacketed by copyrights and a low budget. Flynn's work can't be discussed except in terms of the public-domain hero of Sherwood Forest; the film is stitched together with tabloid front pages and bum lines: "Belli, you're a lawyerÉ" Flynn tells Melvin Belli. Over-narration fleshes out what Flo is feeling, though the vaguer that was, the more interesting the film was. Pity then that they couldn't contrast the Flynn/Aadland romance with 1958's hit, Gigi, with the story of a girlish ingenue, a charming older man, and the kind of woman they used to call a procuress.
With Christine Vachon as producer and Todd Haynes as exec producer, this movie honors melodrama as a method for broadening minds about forbidden love. Some would prefer Flynn presented as slimy and rapey, though Aadland never accused Flynn of ruining her life. She told People magazine "I think I started out being a plaything, but in 24 hours I no longer wasÉIf he were alive today, I would still be with him. "
Kline has the glimmer of the real Flynn; he arranges himself like an old time star, favoring his profile, sitting with the sunlight behind him, restraining his wattles with an ascot. Those old enough to be entertained by Flynn in a swashbuckler may feel Kline honors the memory. The 20ish Dakota Fanning is pearl-pink, very pale, with what you could call a blonde Bettie Page cut; she has a cool, lazy half-smile that softens this movie's rough patches.
94 MIN.; R