Anyone making a movie set more than 50 years in the past needs to have one of two things: A subject with its own innate appeal, or the ability to make their subject appealing through great filmmaking techniques.
Neither of those is present in The Last of Robin Hood, a film that tackles the relationship between actor Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline) and his underage girlfriend, Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), during the last two years of his life. Hovering over their affair is Beverly’s mom, Florence (Susan Sarandon), the classic stage mom who narrates the story throughout. (Robin Hood is playing at Sundance Cinemas.)
Writers/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland overestimate a number of things with this film. First is the name recognition that Flynn still holds. Though he was well known for playing Robin Hood — hence the title — Flynn has not maintained the lasting popularity of other actors of his era.
Fanning, now 20, is doing her best to be taken seriously as an adult actress, but she just isn’t quite there yet.
And because many people have no idea who he was, ginning up interest about a long-ago scandal is that much harder. Glatzer and Westmoreland never go the extra mile in this respect. They seem to assume that the story is interesting merely because it involves Flynn rather than trying to prove its worth.
With Florence essentially telling the story, it also gives the impression that everything that is put on screen may not be exactly as it happened. Florence is shown to be both the ultimate protector and ultimate exploiter of her daughter, so you have to take anything she says with an extra large grain of salt.
Despite the movie’s faults, though, playing Flynn fits Kline like a glove. He imbues Flynn with cocky yet vulnerable demeanor that reminds you of what he can do when he’s at his best. The fact that he’s almost a dead ringer for Flynn doesn’t hurt, either.
Fanning, now 20, is doing her best to be taken seriously as an adult actress, but she just isn’t quite there yet. The part of Beverly requires her to be alternately innocent and worldly, only one of which she portrays convincingly.
The details in The Last of Robin Hood should make it a story to remember for a long time. The way they’re presented, however, make the film as forgettable as they come.