Acting magic fills the screen in The Last of Robin Hood, a fascinating true-life tale about the desire for fame and the price it demands. Because one of my first movie crushes involved Errol Flynn, the swashbuckling hero of The Adventures of Robin Hood, this film captured my interest right away. Kevin Kline doesn’t just play Flynn -- he becomes Flynn. Not the early heartthrob, of course, but Flynn in his later years after the booze and legendary philandering have taken their toll.
The story centers around Flynn’s scandalous affair with star-struck teenager Beverly Aadland, portrayed oh-so convincingly by Dakota Fanning, and how Beverly’s mother enabled that relationship. Kline and Fanning are disturbingly spellbinding together here. But there’s more! As Beverly’s fame-obsessed mom Florence, Susan Sarandon almost runs away with the movie.
Kline, Fanning and Sarandon seem like the dream cast for this particular film. Kline actually played Flynn before (in Chaplin with Robert Downey Jr.). And I remember the first time I saw Kline was in Pirates of Penzance, where he channeled both Errol Flynn and Danny Kaye to deliver a terrific performance as the Pirate King. In The Last of Robin Hood, Kline looks like Flynn, talks like Flynn, swaggers like Flynn -- all the while making us understand how the man is deteriorating physically and mentally. Teen-age Fanning looks mature for her age and projects just the right amount of confusion and excitement over what’s happening to her young character. Sarandon tosses away all semblance of glamour in order to make Florence come to life on screen. She did something similar as a nun in Dead Man Walking, which earned her an Oscar -- so I wouldn’t be surprised if that works for her again. But it’s not just the way she looks here. Her fearless performance rings so true that we forget she’s Susan Sarandon, Movie Star.
In October of 1959, the Flynn/Aadland relationship became public as the result of Flynn’s death in Beverly’s arms. Following this startling revelation, Beverly and her mother were vilified in the press -- and both faced serious consequences.
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, co-directors and co-writers of The Last of Robin Hood, admit the Flynn/Aadland relationship is still controversial. “We made no justification for it and neither did we want to pass judgment,” they explain. “We simply wanted to show what Beverly experienced and what Florence and Errol went through -- their understandings, delusions, manipulations, flaws, hopes, dreams and fears.”
In achieving their goal, Glatzer and Wesmoreland have also created a most intriguing motion picture.
(Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and rated “R” for some sexuality and language.)
For more information about The Last of Robin Hood, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.