There was a time when Errol Flynn had the world at his fingertips. The Hollywood legend lived a flamboyant life full of privilege, and he wasn't afraid to wave that privilege around in others' faces. Most of all this extended to his love of women, and the famous lothario used his star power and soothing charms to woo the knickers off his share of ladies. But while he once had everything it did not extend to the final years of his life chronicled in the shoddy, lukewarm biopic The Last of Robin Hood.
The Last of Robin Hood is as questionable as Flynn's personal and professional judgment during his final years when he was a barely functioning alcoholic. But he still had that big Hollywood swagger even if Hollywood only looked at him as an object of pity. Taken literally, the film is about 15-year-old Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), the last of the Robin Hood star's scandalous relationships. The decision to focus on Aadland, a figure few remember for pretty good reason, is just one of numerous mistakes by writing/directing duo Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, whose production looks barely above that of novice filmmakers. Flynn, who lived an infinitely interesting life beyond his nailing an underaged groupie, is relegated to little more than a pathetic sad sack, selling short a game performance by Kline.
Beverly proves to be the character least worth our time and the one we spend the most with. The end of the story serves as our intro, as Beverly's celebrity-obsessed mother Florence (Susan Sarandon) is caught in a sea of reporters as they wait for her daughter's plane to arrive. Flo is eating up the limelight, something she's quietly always sought and used her daughter to get. Years earlier, Beverly was a nobody on the chorus line of a Gene Kelly production, until she happened to catch Flynn's prowling eye. He approached her, took her out for an evening of dinner, drinks, and the ol' casting couch. They began seeing one another, and not even learning she was still a high school student could dissuade the horny (and desperate) Flynn. Flo pretends to be clueless while giving her quiet consent, but her husband, who calls Flynn "a walking penis" in the movie's funniest moment, is disgusted and files for divorce.
It's a story demanding to be told with a sensationalistic flair but Westmoreland and Glatzer opt for respectful and reserved. They spend the entire film trying to explain away the actions of three totally unlikable people. So we get Flynn, who always seems like the pitiful old guy at the club, flying Beverly from one high-profile gig after another with her always coming up short. She's talentless, beautiful and icy, but utterly without a shred of potential. It's all because of her mom, who we learn had superstar aspirations of her own once, that has pushed her into the public eye and thus public humiliation. Trying to gain our sympathy was the wrong approach to take, and some of the most awful details were left out or deliberately glossed over (Flynn was charged with statutory rape before) for fear of making things too complex. Why not put everything out there and let the audience decide?
In a poor attempt to capture the Technicolor look of the era, the whole thing comes out looking extremely ugly. Drably shot and lacking momentum, it's basically one boring, cautious conversation after another. How can such a salacious story turn out so dull? Not even Kline, who at his age still has a young man's gleam and energy, can do much to save this hopeless film. He gets no help from a listless Fanning, who mistakes being flat for naiveté. Sarandon does what she can with an underwritten role, almost making us forgive Flo for pimping out her daughter. But no, not quite. "Not quite" pretty much sums up The Last of Robin Hood. It's almost a meaningful look at the downfall of a true Hollywood legend, and maybe under better directors and smarter casting it might have been.