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'The Last of Robin Hood': A huge star diminshed

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The Last of Robin Hood

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In the last years of his life, Errol Flynn’s star had dimmed considerably. So perhaps it is only appropriate that the first film about him would seem so small.

The Last of Robin Hood” is about the final years of Flynn’s life, told primarily through the eyes of Florence Aadland (Susan Sarandon), the mother of Flynn’s last girlfriend, Beverly (Dakota Fanning). Written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, “The Last of Robin Hood” stars Kevin Kline in a role he was born to play—Errol Flynn. If doppelgangers do exist, than Kline is Flynn’s…no makeup and prosthetics needed.

The film opens in October 1959, with Beverly flying into Los Angeles immediately after Flynn’s death at age 50 in Canada where the two had been spending time together. His death and her presence at his side brings their here-to-fore little known relationship into the forefront and the media onslaught on Beverly is horrific. The huge crowd airport crowd and screaming of questions from reporters is so bad that she faints and is rushed away. A reporter recognizes Florence in the crowd and contacts her later, hoping for a story. After some thought, Florence decides to work with him and his tape recorder begins to record.

The film then goes back in time to 1957 as we watch Beverly get ready to go to work. She’s a dancer in a Gene Kelly movie and is dressing for the trip to the studio. Her mother urges her to change her outfit to wear something that makes her look a little older. That advice seems strange at first, since isn’t the goal for a woman in Hollywood to look younger…even in the 50s? However, this scene will make sense soon after in the film. On this particular day, Errol Flynn is on the same lot as Beverly. He spots her from a distance and is immediately “smitten.” He sends Orry Kelly (Bryan Batt), a famous Hollywood costume designer, who’s in Flynn’s dressing room at the time, to ask her to meet him later. Beverly agrees to the meeting and things progress rapidly from there.

How much did Florence know about her daughter’s relationship with Flynn early on? We’ll never know precisely, and she claims innocence about knowing anything at first. But in the movie it takes her husband (Beverly’s father) all of about 30 seconds to figure out what is what. But once she does know, she does everything she can to encourage the relationship.

“The Last of Robin Hood” boasts an outstanding cast. As Errol Flynn, Kevin Kline doesn’t do an impression. He really embodies the man. As noted earlier, it’s an added bonus that he happens to look just like him. Dakota Fanning is absolutely terrific as Beverly. We know she’s underage when she first meets Flynn, but it’s to the actress’ credit that there’s an audible gasp from the audience when it’s revealed how young she is…not because she doesn’t look it, but because she’s mastered the act of seeming older. Fanning is able to play wide-eye innocent and wise-beyond her years convincingly…often within the same scene. But the scene stealer, without chewing up the scenery, is Susan Sarandon. Her Florence lives so vicariously through her daughter, it’s like watching the second coming of “Gypsy’s” Mama Rose. It all becomes understandable when we hear Florence’s extremely sad back-story.

What’s very strange about “The Last of Flynn” is that Flynn is almost an aside in his own movie. His life story is not an uninteresting one. He was a huge star whose fall from grace was in large part due to his prior relationships with young women. Perhaps someday we’ll learn more about him in a different film. For now we are left with this small movie with some very large performances.

“The Last of Robin Hood” was shown as part of Filmfest DC. It is scheduled for release later this year.

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