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THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD (2013) review

September 6, 2014

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written by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
produced by: Christine Vachon, Declan Baldwin and Pamela Koffler
directed by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
rating: R (for some sexuality and language)
runtime: 88 min.
U.S. release date September 06, 2013 (TIFF), August 29, 2014 and September 05, 2014 (limited)

 

There’s no trace of Robin of Locksley in “The Last of Robin Hood”. It’s a title merely to get your attention. If you want to see Robin Hood in his twilight years, you’d do best to check out Sean Connery in 1976’s “Robin and Marion”. This somewhat boring melodrama focuses on the last couple of years in the life of actor Errol Flynn, the controversial lothario who, in his late forties took on a 15 year-old girl as his paramour. If that sounds kind of skeevy, well it is, and as much as writer/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland try to romanticize the relationship, the aura of uneasiness permeates the entire picture.

Which brings me back to boredom. I can handle that “aura of uneasiness” in a film – sometimes I even welcome it, but don’t bore me. Please. It’s possible that a screenplay penned with more experience might have taken a unique angle rather than this by-the-numbers approach and maybe if the film was helmed by a director who could’ve challenged the actors more than what we have here. Alas, that’s not the case with “The Last of Robin Hood”.

 

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The film opens in 1959, after Flynn’s death, where we’re introduced to a bewildered Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), a young woman hounded by the media after her taboo love affair with Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline) spread like wildfire in the tabloids. Amid the flashbulbs and hollering is Florence Aadland (Susan Sarandon), whom we’ll soon learn is Beverly’s mother and the sole character with an arc and more than one dimension in this film. The narrative unfolds, supposedly from the perspective of Florence, who agrees to recall the two years she shared with Errol and Beverly to a persuasive writer.

We learn how Beverly was discovered by Errol at the Warner Bros. studio lot where she was worked as a chorus girl. The Australian star sends for her, relying on his status to impress her. It really doesn’t (at least not that we can tell from Fanning’s wooden performance), but that doesn’t stop the freewheeling Errol from taking her out of town, showing her around and then taking her virginity, which is where the phrase “in like Flynn” came from. He feels victorious and alive. She feels traumatized and used, as would anyone who’s just been raped would.

It’s unclear how Errol sees Beverly differently from any of his other conquests, but he inevitably hounds the girl, confessing he can’t stop thinking about her and all that jazz. Reluctant at first, Beverly is won over by the Errol’s persistent charm and you’ll watch and hopefully feel grossed out by it all. Kline and Fanning offer zero chemistry and are both too old to be playing their respective ages, not to mention the shameful age difference. Despite objections from Errol’s colleagues and Beverly’s father (Patrick St. Esprit), who sees Errol for what he is, “a walking penis”, the two remain together as Florence becomes the enabler and supporter for the pair.

 

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The more we learn about Florence though, the more we glean somewhat of an understanding of her behavior. Parents living vicariously through their children, especially their success, is a worn cliche, yet Sarandon succeeds in providing viewers with a layered character, ranging from clueless to pathetic to manipulating. In a film where we probably should sympathize with more with Beverly, it’s her mother that we wind up connecting with, even if we don’t agree with her actions.

“The Last of Robin Hood” has a fine enough grasp of Hollywood in the 50s, with the appropriate wardrobe and vehicles, but overall it feels like a Lifetime movie aspiring to be a Starz original feature. That’s about all Glatzer and Westmoreland (“Quinceanera”) offer, despite a game Kline (who can’t seem to decide on an accent) and a potential to delve into these interesting characters, their script merely skims the surface. Any interest in Errol and Beverly’s trip to Africa to film John Huston’s “The Roots of Heaven” is short-lived by the unconvincing location shots that feel like they were made on the cheap in the California desert.

One bit of Hollywood history briefly touched on is how Errol turned down a lead role in Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” because he insisted that he and Beverly were a package deal. Of course, Kubrick (an underused Max Casella) went with James Mason and Sue Lyon, since Beverly was an awful actress. To be fair, we’re told she’s not a very good actress and we believe it even though we’re not given many examples, mainly because Fanning feels so comatose throughout most of the film.

Like many films supposedly told from one perspective though, we see a story unfold in such a way that could never have been told by someone who didn’t experience the events as they’re told. That’s easy enough to get over, since we rarely see a film hold to such a convention.

Like other recent films, such as “Hitchcock” and “Saving Mr. Banks”, that benefit from straying away from the traditional biopic tropes, “The Last of Robin Hood” focuses solely on a short period of time. Too bad this salacious and scandalous period is weighed down by Flynn’s pervy ways and a mediocre delivery that will put you to sleep. For a film that took over 10 years to develop, that’s too bad.

 

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RATING: **

 

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Wesley permalink
    September 6, 2014 8:14 pm

    Errol Flynn’s autobiography, My Wicked Wicked Ways, ranks as one of the best books I have ever read, so it is a shame this film doesn’t give Flynn the focus he deserves.

    True he was a pervert, and a sexual deviant, but he knew it, but as he says in his book, he just couldn’t help himself… Which of course led to his drinking and his ultimate demise as an actor and a person, but Flynn was also a man who asked so many questions about life, and seldom got an answer.

    I will still probably watch the film, as I did Hitchcock (even though most of that biopic was fictional), but afterwards I will probably re-read his autobiography, to remind me what a wonderfully complex, but troubled gent he was.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      September 16, 2014 8:13 pm

      You touched on one of my favorite, all-too brief, moments from the film….when Fanning’s character notices a question mark on an article of clothing Flynn is wearing. She asks why he has it and he replies, “Because I question everything?” – or something of the sort. If only more light was shed on that characteristic of the man, but alas, that’s not the goal here. As good as Kline is here, and he is – the story has an agenda all its own.

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