Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning, Susan Sarandon, Patrick St. Esprit, Matthew Kane, Max Casella, Sean Flynn, Bryan Batt, Jane McNeill
Written by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Directed by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and language
Running Time: 94
Date: 09/05/2014

The Last of Robin Hood (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Kevin Kline plays Errol Flynn in The Last of Robin Hood. Does anyone remember that he also played Douglas Fairbanks in a few scenes in Richard Attenborough's Chaplin (1992)? Fairbanks and Flynn were cut from the same cloth, both joyous swashbucklers, and both playing Robin Hood in the two best filmed versions of that tale to date: Robin Hood (1922) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Maybe that means that Kline is also a kindred spirit, but looking back at his filmography, I see some fine performances, but I don't see any adventure flicks (except animated ones). The closest he came was Silverado, but he seems subdued in that one, as if it were filmed before he discovered himself. It seems a shame, and it's a shame that's only multiplied by The Last of Robin Hood. It's a magnificent performance by Kline inside a flat, lifeless movie.

To their credit, co-writers and co-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have not told the full life story of Flynn, but -- like some of the best recent biopics -- have focused on a specific time and a specific story. In this case, it covers Flynn's two-year relationship with the teenage Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), when Flynn was nearing fifty and reaching the end of his life. Beverly's stage mom (Susan Sarandon) came along for the ride, doing what stage moms do, worrying, but also enabling. After that, it's all fairly typical. Flynn tries to get parts for Beverly, but she's not much of an actress. (In one scene, he pitches Stanley Kubrick on the idea of his playing Humbert Humbert to Beverly's Lolita.) Meanwhile, his health continues to fail.

Part of the problem is that as soon as Fanning walks on screen, she seems like an automaton. Fanning is a fine actress elsewhere, but she just seems wrong here. She doesn't have the kind of beauty or sensuality that might draw the attention of the older man. She's not playful or tempting or lively. She's not much of anything. It's as if Fanning latched onto the idea of Beverly being a bad actress and went with it.

Sarandon, too, is obviously one of our best actresses, but the directors do not let her explore the self-delusion of the character. She's clearly headed down a doomed path, but she never once shows a glimmer of understanding or doubt. Her one-note character believes that everything is going to be just fine, all the time, without wavering, and it becomes tedious.

But Kline pulls off a magnificent Flynn, occasionally swordfighting around the house, flashing a dashing grin, or tossing off a playful, self-deprecating one-liner. It's a performance that contains a lifetime of work inside it, and it's also one that's full of regret, missed chances. To reiterate, it's a shame that the filmmakers could have let Kline meet Flynn halfway, two men looking back and wondering if this was the right path. Kline has done the work of a great actor, and he deserved a great film. But he did not get one.

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