I’m sure Errol Flynn’s penchant for younger women was no secret, but I didn’t actually know very much about him, so I was surprised to find out quite how much younger. That seems to be mostly the point of The Last of Robin Hood, which stars Kevin Kline as Flynn, Dakota Fanning as his … girl … friend? … Beverley Adland, and Susan Sarandon as Beverly’s mother Florence.
We begin with Flynn’s death and the media scrutiny that turns on Beverly in its wake. We then flash back to the pair meeting. Beverly is a 15-year-old chorus girl and Flynn is … well, Errol Flynn, if not so young as he once was. He charms her, invites her out, dazzles her with promises of a movie-star career and then rapes her. And it is straight-up portrayed as rape, with Beverly a mess afterward … but gradually the two reconcile and begin a relationship, at first behind Florence’s back and later with her connivance.
Beverly can’t really act or sing, so her career goes nowhere even with Flynn’s patronage. He gets old and dies, she’s a mess, the publicity is awful, and Florence publishes a trashy tell-all book that makes Beverly’s life even worse. Hurrah.
I think the thing I struggle with is that, despite having watched it, I’m not sure what this movie’s deal is. I can’t think what I got out of it other than an object lesson in everyone winking at a movie star being a colossal dirtbag. You might say that the film attempts to take a neutral tone and just present the facts, but somehow the equal weight given to the rape, her gradual acceptance of Flynn as a lover and all the inside-baseball Hollywood stuff mean that none of it really has any punch. I felt like I’d just watched a PowerPoint presentation on the relationship — which in turn means that it feels like the film soft-pedalled the horror of both Flynn and Florence.
Which is a shame, because the cast is good and they do good work. They’re just never really given a point worth making. Perhaps the murky, ambiguous psychology of the story doesn’t fit the TV-movie version of Hollywood glamour that The Last of Robin Hood tries to project.
There is a brief scene in which Flynn makes Cuban Rebel Girls, which is fun. It’s always enjoyable to see how actors handle playing characters who can’t act.