September 12, 2013



THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD is an odd miss, a sliver of movie history that seems to have all the right elements but never quite jells.  The title refers to Errol Flynn, legendary swashbuckling star of The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, The Dawn Patrol and many other classic Hollywood adventures, and it’s hard to imagine more apt casting for the role than Kevin Kline, whose own breakout hit performance in The Pirates of Penzance was a flamboyant salute to Flynn.  (Kline has said that he’d been approached several times before to play various incarnations of Flynn, and that’s easy to believe.)  Here he’s playing the lion in winter, a Flynn who, in the late 1950s, wasn’t yet 50 years old, but weathered by alcohol and every other vice.  Most notoriously, Flynn was attracted to underage girls, and had been tried for statutory rape in the 1940s–he was acquitted, but his reputation was never the same.  In 1957, Flynn met and began a relationship with 15-year old starlet Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), one that was encouraged by her mother Florence (Susan Sarandon) in the hope that Flynn would turn her daughter into a star.  Aadland became the love of Flynn’s late life, and she was with him until he died 2 years later.

The Last of Robin Hood is the story of that romance, and it appears to be a generally accurate one in factual terms (writer/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, who previously made the charming Quinceanera, were in close touch with the real Aadland until her own recent death).  Even its most unlikely details, like Flynn directing Aadland in a pro-Cuban revolution movie financed by the Castro regime, have roots in fact.  The characters are drawn with clarity, and the movie has a point of view. Yet everything in it feels unreal and incomplete.

A fundamental problem is in the movie’s depiction of the central relationship, which despite several teasing references to Lolita (including a painful appearance by Max Casella as a representation of Stanley Kubrick) is completely lacking in sexual heat.  Glatzer and Westmoreland insist on portraying the ultimate attraction of Flynn and Aadland as being rooted in friendship, their like minds meeting like, and that’s fair enough, but it’s ridiculous to do so by minimizing what had to have been a key part of what they were about as a couple.  Kline’s Flynn is more a mentor than a lover, and Fanning’s Aadland never seems to feel passionately about him.  Fanning is, in general, a puzzle; it’s still not clear what kind of adult actress she’s going to be.  She looks great in the period outfits here, and she’s certainly a skilled performer after growing up in front of the camera, but she’s somehow lacking in affect.  (She was more effective in the grittier indie Night Moves, also at Toronto, and the Film Festival’s live read of the script of Boogie Nights, where she took on Heather Graham’s role of Rollergirl.  Perhaps the spontaneity of that exercise engaged her, and what she needs is to undertake one of those semi-improvised mumblecore projects.)

Glatzer and Westmoreland are also victimized by their extremely limited budget (the entire film was shot on a short schedule in Georgia, for tax rebate reasons, and was co-financed by Lifetime and A&E Networks). Michael Simmonds’s cinematography attempts a facsimile of the kind of florid color found in 1950s melodramas, but the production design by Jade Healy is limited at best, and the short 90 minute running time, along with much of the overly blunt dialogue, keeps everything feeling sketchy.

There are worthy features to The Last of Robin Hood, especially the performances by Kline and Sarandon, who bring expert shading to their roles.  The overall impression, though, is of a colorized classic, a flat and unconvincing version of the palette of real life.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."