Even at 50 years old, actor Errol Flynn was known as a ruthless playboy with a ravishing appetite for pretty young things. So when the Captain Blood star makes a phone call to 15-year-old's house, the mother has every right to slam the receiver down and march upstairs to rain holy hell onto her daughter. But this mother is smitten.
And that's how quick a teenager is allowed to date and sleep with an aging Hollywood star in The Last of Robin Hood. Fame, it seems, goes a long way in smoothing out the wrinkles of social norms, and creased faces.
Not that this dilemma is all Flynn’s fault. Beverly Aandland (Dakota Fanning) did show up to a Hollywood movie set with a fake birth certificate saying she was 18. And she never mentioned her age, even though Flynn had his suspicions she was young — too young. Later when he finds out how old she is, he doesn't recoil or jump out of the dating pool like a responsible adult, but instead he manipulates Beverly's mother, a rotten piece of work named Florence (Susan Sarandon), who justifies the pimping out of her daughter in the name of her career. "This is how all the young starlets get roles," she says convincing no one but herself.
The Last of Robin Hood is a true story told from the point of view of Beverly, who wasn't raped on her first date with Errol Flynn, though it came very close. When Flynn turns up the next day, he's head over heels for her and charms her into a relationship that lasts until his death two years later from, likely, alcohol and drug abuse. As Beverly begins to learn about Errol, she's just as smitten as her mother, who accompanies the couple everywhere they go to divert unseemly rumors and gossip magazines. Beverly reminds Errol of a "little sprite … a wood nymph," so he calls her Woodsy, which is not a flattering nickname when yelled across rooms at parties.
Flynn is played by Kevin Kline, an actor who also dated (and married) a much-younger starlet — though Phoebe Cates was very much a legal adult when they began dating. Comparison images reveal physical similarities, although Kline’s version of Flynn is not as dashing as Jude Law’s swashbuckling lothario from The Aviator. Kline does a commendable job, except he’s just not given much to work around. Flynn could command a room and seduce women with ease, but the script writes him as a hollow shell of want and need. The frustration that Flynn was experiencing as his career faded was likely immense, but the The Last of Robin Hood seems more concerned with tacky spectacle — wooden canes to illustrate his deteriorating health, hidden flasks to show his alcohol dependence, and crushing jealousy for men Beverly's own age (including one played by Flynn's real grandson).
While the film underhandedly acknowledges his last romance, it barely dents the complicated essence of the actor, and botches attempts to ignite curiosity about his career. At one point The Sea Hawk is brought up, but only in passing and as a joke about how awful it was. (I rather liked his pirate movies.) Only perceptive viewers will learn, if they didn't know already, that the title comes from Flynn's starring role in 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood. The only other film references include a set visit to Africa for the The Roots of Heaven, a bungled three sentences on the communist flop Cuban Rebel Girls (starring Beverly), and a tiny scene with Max Casella as a young Stanley Kubrick casting Lolita. Predator of teens or not, the movie doesn't establish Flynn as a Hollywood star other than to have people gawk at him when he walks by.
Fanning, like Kline, seems to struggle with the script, which is as knotty and floatable as her nickname. Dialogue is terribly written, and occasionally terribly acted, and much of the lightweight staging and tempo give the impression of a Lifetime TV movie. I wasn't surprised to see Lifetime Films produced it — it just looks cheap. I will say this for Fanning, she does convey the innocence of and frailty of a 15 year old. Her whisper-thin frame and her childlike voice give credibility to her character's age, even as Fanning pushes closer to 21 years old.
Sarandon, though, is a mess. Her performance is all over the place, except where it needs to be. And her mother character’s motivations too complicated. By the end of the film I wasn’t sure if she really wanted Beverly to succeed, wanted a free ride or was herself in love with Errol Flynn. When Florence tells Beverly's father about Flynn's advances, the dad flips. "Errol Flynn is a walking penis," he shouts. I liked this guy, and I wanted other characters that smart in the film to balance out the stupid ones.
So, who was Errol Flynn? This movie has no clue other than he dated a teenager, loved her and then died, and that was a sensational story back in 1959. And still is today.