Film review: The Last of Robin Hood steals no glory

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Kevin Kline portrays an unscrupulous, scandalized Errol Flynn in The Last of Robin Hood. Photo credit: Killer Films Kevin Kline portrays an unscrupulous, scandalized Errol Flynn in The Last of Robin Hood. Photo credit: Killer Films

Not since Raul Julia’s puzzling appearance in the New Jersey Public Television video chroma key disaster “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank” has A-level talent looked as out of place as it does in the attempted scandal flick The Last of Robin Hood. But where “Overdrawn” can blame its production value on the fact that it was actually made for television and has a trainwreck charm that landed it on MST3K, Robin Hood has no excuses to fall back on. It’s too cheap to be a lush period piece, too on-the-nose to be a trashy tabloid romp, and more concerned with overbearing voiceover exposition than the character development that would have at least made the previous two shortcomings tolerable.

The Last of Robin Hood stars Kevin Kline as Errol Flynn, though the film’s focus is teenage actress Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning) and her mother, Florence (Susan Sarandon). At 15 years old but passing herself off as older to get work in Hollywood, Beverly grew up under the supervision and guidance of her showbiz mom. Flynn notices Beverly while peering through his blinds, setting up the seduction/coercion we expect from a man with his reputation. The two begin a relationship, and Flynn brings Florence on board with promises to take Beverly “under his wing.” The two bend over backward to convince themselves, each other, and the world that the (illegal) relationship is the right thing for Beverly personally and professionally, but end up in the center of a moral, professional, and financial shitstorm in the wake of Flynn’s death.

There is potential for a good story here, from both historical and psychological angles. The best thing The Last of Robin Hood does is focus on the Aadlands and how they were affected by this man’s (waning) power and influence. Most films about May-December relationships are more interested in the man who is past his prime than the woman who is just entering hers, when in most cases, the latter story would be the most interesting; adolescent women must confront a whole host of societal issues that would be more worthwhile to investigate than yet another midlife crisis tale. The starkly different attitude that Beverly and Florence develop in sharing their lives with the public following Flynn’s death is rich for dramatic exploration.

How strange, then, that the result is so flat in tone and presentation. While “The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story” makes waves for inventing scandal out of nothing, here we have a genuine scandal with many sides told in completely straightfaced recitation.

It’s also astonishing how bad this movie looks, with sets and hastily composited shots of 1950s cities that wouldn’t be out of place on “Saturday Night Live.” But the tone is especially problematic when the filmmakers seem content to give equal dramatic weight to the horrific and the mundane, be it Flynn’s jealousy over Beverly’s flirting or the fact that he raped her on their first date. There’s no doubt that sexuality and consent were viewed differently in the 1950s, but the film’s flatness blurs the line between depicting the logic of a different era and accepting it. For a film supposedly dedicated to Beverly, it seems disrespectful not to grant her a more modern view of the events that shaped her.

The fact that The Last of Robin Hood is being distributed by Lifetime invites the question of whether it was actually intended for television, but had a few F-bombs and a slightly risqué nude scene from Kline thrown in for a theatrical release. It also invites the question of who this movie is for. Fans of Errol Flynn will get nothing more than a spirited imitation from Kline (the fault of bad material, as he certainly commits to the part). 

Those not familiar with Flynn or Hollywood history will have a difficult time understanding why any of these people are worth paying attention to. So in the end, The Last of Robin Hood is a movie for no one in particular with no specific point to make about a scandalous celebrity who makes more outrageous claims in his own autobiography.

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979-7669

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