There’s something telling about The Last of Robin Hood being the first project to emerge from Lifetime Films. The sordid tale of Errol Flynn’s last days clinching with a Lolita and soaking in booze and drugs, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland’s by-the-numbers account technically qualifies as a true-crime tale, and seems to exist mostly out of a sense of marketable prurience: hallmarks of Lifetime’s infamous cable movies.
The palpable appeal of The Last of Robin Hood lies almost entirely in its casting. Kevin Kline stars as erstwhile star Flynn in his late-1950s decline, and Kline and Flynn prove a match made in Hollywood heaven. The film begins with Flynn’s 1959 death, then flashes back to tell the story of how Kline met, aggressively wooed, and won the heart of aspiring fifteen-year-old actress Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning).
Fanning seemingly lacks the craft to convey why she comes to love Flynn so much (a kind of Stockholm syndrome? genuine admiration for his talents and accomplishments?), but to be fair, Glatzer and Westmoreland’s script never gives this crucial point its due. And so our attentions more easily lie with uber-cad Flynn and Aadland’s bone-deep stage mother Florence, played with great skill by Susan Sarandon.
What fun there is to be had in The Last of Robin Hood, outside of the handsome period production design, comes from noting the subtleties of the lies Flynn tells and the lies Florence tells herself to believe she’s a good person and not herself a desperate, selfish exploiter to equal Flynn. Kline brings a witty, comically smooth self-awareness to his portrayal of a washed-up star who knows he’s being bad and, for the most part, doesn’t care (and yet, in his darkest hours, self-loathing creeps in at the edges), while an equally keen Sarandon plays Florence as a woman who drives herself so consistently in part so as not to be able to stop and think about how she’s selling out her own daughter at every turn.
Ultimately, The Last of Robin Hood is too dully straightforward to justify its own existence. The film practically screams out for some insight into Beverly’s psychology or some provocative discussion about the value of the February-December romance, but Glatzer and Westmoreland simply plod through “just the facts” and make their seasoned stars work overtime to bring any interest to the sodden dialogue and mostly dull, repetitive incident.
As a result, The Last of Robin Hood feels like a tabloid read in the supermarket aisle, with just as much depth and consideration and thoughtfulness on the part of the gossip peddlers as the gossip consumers. Worse, the flick’s a bit like a car wreck, which we’ve all seen before and don’t need to see again, much as we may be tempted. Move along, folks: there’s nothing to see here.