Errol Flynn was the ultimate playboy.
The man lived his life as if it were a never-ending booze cruise and his romantic exploits were so legendary the phrase “In like Flynn” is used today by people who have never seen the swashbuckling actor shimmy up a single mizzenmast.
The movie “The Last of Robin Hood” looks to peel back some of that mythos by looking at the end of the man’s life and examining his final relationship with the way, way, way too young Beverly Aadland.
While this movie is a fairly middling biopic, it is actually a much more fascinating look at the trappings of fame, show business, and celebrity culture. In short, Flynn is the least interesting part of this movie.
This isn’t a knock on Kevin Kline, who plays the fading star brilliantly by cashing in on a striking resemblance to the aged Flynn.
Set in the late 1950s as Flynn’s career was beginning to flounder, a chorus girl walking through the studio lot catches his eye and thus begins his pursuit of Beverly (Dakota Fanning), who was only 15 at the time.
Their relationship blossoms all under the eye of Beverly’s mother Florence (Susan Sarandon), the classic stage mom who sees Flynn’s interest in her daughter as a potential boon to Beverly’s career and looks the other way from the glaring inappropriateness of it all.
“The Last of Robin Hood” is more of a character study than a straightforward biography, which means it doesn’t have to get by peddling lurid True Hollywood Stories! (Although one eyebrow-raising factoid it does present is Flynn wanted to play Humbert Humbert in Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” on the condition Beverly play Lolita. As if that movie’s not creepy enough.)
The performances are all solid, but one clearly stands out above the rest.
Kline looks just like Flynn and is a charming dude in his own right, so this isn’t really that much of a stretch for him. At this point in his life, Flynn had justified all of his bad behavior to the point that he’s not at all conflicted about his seduction of Beverly. He’s more of a force of nature than anything else. This doesn’t give Kline a lot to work with aside from nailing the impersonation.
Fanning also does her best with a part that doesn’t require much more out of her than to be a wide-eyed, impressionable, and exploited child actor, which is safely within her wheelhouse. Of course, a 15-year-old girl is no match for a seasoned lothario like Flynn.
In a lot of ways, this movie belongs to Sarandon, whose turn as Florence is just as sympathetic as it is despicable. A former dancer whose career abruptly ended when she lost her leg in a car accident, Florence is clearly living vicariously through her daughter by constantly pushing her into the spotlight.
The torment behind her eyes as she allows Beverly to get closer to Flynn all while fully aware of his intentions and holding onto the hope this is just a quickly forgotten chapter on her daughter’s path to superstardom is heartbreaking to watch.
Florence becomes their chaperone in public, allowing herself to be used as cover for the tabloid press, which takes its toll as she crawls deeper into a bottle as events begin to spiral out of control.
“The Last of Robin Hood” was co-directed and co-written by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. The pair is clearly interested in the predatory nature of the cult of celebrity that persists to this day. Girls like Beverly are so easily chewed up and spit out of the system while being manipulated on all sides by people they believe they can trust.
In the end, this movie smartly refuses to stand in judgment of any of the characters and succeeds in finding some depth most biopics are never able to achieve. That, along with Sarandon’s impressive turn, makes this movie worth checking out.
“The Last of Robin Hood” is rated R for some sexuality and language.