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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Last of Robin Hood
The Last of Robin Hood
Other // R // August 29, 2014
Review by Jamie S. Rich | posted September 4, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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Rarely would I tie a review to a single image, but the picture above perfectly sums up the experience of viewing The Last of Robin Hood. You will run the gamut of emotions from left to right: you will be bored, you will be flummoxed, and you will want to look at something, anything else.

The Last of Robin Hood is the story of the final years of Errol Flynn's life, when the aging action star was in a relationship with a fifteen-year-old actress named Beverly Aadland. It's Beverly's family who apparently have led the cause to have this movie made, to tell her story and get it straight, something the film suggests she was reluctant to do in her lifetime, nearly ruining her relationship with her mother for good in the process. The logic is sound. They want to take the narrative out of the hands of those who might focus only on the salacious and scandalous and ignore any real connection the couple might have had. While The Last of Robin Hood takes a couple of baby steps toward doing that, a hackneyed script and a low-budget production keep the biopic from being definitive or essential.

Kevin Kline stars in The Last of Robin Hood as Flynn, who spots Beverly (Dakota Fanning) on the studio lot one day and sends a flunky to procure her. Promising her an audition for a play he will be starring in, Flynn wines and dines the young girl before taking her virginity under rather date-rapey circumstances. The movie will take pains to make sure we know that Flynn didn't know Beverly was underage, but it does little to excuse the machinations both Flynn and Beverly's mother, Florence (Susan Sarandon), undertake to hide her true age while the pair date. The truth only comes out after Flynn's death shortly thereafter.

The Last of Robin Hood actually opens in the media circus following Flynn's passing, and then weaves around the timeline, the very recent past catching up with the fictionalized present an hour in. Florence is in command of the story, dictating her version of events to a reporter behind her daughter's back. Naturally, the film doesn't stick to her telling. We peek around the veil of her ignorance to see the events she was barred from. Both the script and the direction are by the team of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceanera), who are out of their element doing a period piece of this kind. The Last of Robin Hood looks cheap. The costumes and sets are something more akin to a 1980s television movie, and indeed, one of the production companies on the film turns out to be Lifetime, the cable channel known for its sappy romances and soap-opera thrillers. The period detail lacks any attention to said detail, appearing instead like someone looked at a bunch of animated Mad Men gifs on Tumblr and then went to Etsy to find the closest knock-offs of the clothes and furniture they could afford. Major storytelling points are relayed via badly mocked-up facsimiles of celebrity scandal sheets, while snapshots of Errol and Beverly's trip to Africa to film John Huston's The Roots of Heaven appear to have been cobbled together by an intern with a hacked version of photoshop. As Beverly herself might say, the movie looks corny.

All of this might not be so distracting if the script wasn't so thin. There is a story here, but Glatzer and Westmoreland just skate the surface. Biopics generally falter by trying to cram an entire life into two hours, but here they only needed to fit a couple of years into ninety minutes. It boggles the mind that, with such a specific story, they don't seem to understand what points might actually make it interesting. There's a lot of hand wringing and a bit of bickering, but very little passion.

So, you know, to call back to that picture: bored by the bad writing and flummoxed by the appalling production values. The only things that kept me from looking away entirely were Kline and Sarandon. He transforms himself completely into Errol Flynn, capturing the charm and the self-loathing and the broken-down nature of the swashbuckler. It's like the extended remix of his supporting cameo as Douglas Fairbanks in Richard Attenborough's Chaplin. Not necessarily anything we haven't seen from him prior, but given a different scope. Likewise, Sarandon has played the put-upon matriarch before, but she has such gravity and humanity, she keeps the alcoholic stage mother from being a parody, despite the best efforts of the writers to go the easiest route with her story arc.

The combined powers of these two performers still aren't enough to recommend this turkey. A stronger performance from Fanning might have helped; she's like vapor here. She helps drag down any scene she's in. But then, this production is such a black hole of mediocrity, it takes a particular strength to avoid its gravitational suck. Stay as far away as you can, lest The Last of Robin Hood drag you under, as well.

Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.

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