DVD Review: The Last of Robin Hood

RobinDVD1STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland | CAST: Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Dakota Fanning, Bryan Batt, Max Casella, Sean Flynn
RELEASE DATE: 3/3/15 | PRICE: DVD $19.98, Blu-ray $26.98
BONUSES: none
SPECS: R | 94 min. | Biographical drama | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, Spanish, French, Thai, Korean, Portuguese, Indonesian, Cantonese and Mandarin subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video | Overall

 

 

Fantasy author Philip Pullman has noted that there is no psychology in fairy tales: Good characters do good things, bad characters do bad things, and every character action proceeds from the kind of transparent, clearly stated motivations that preclude ambiguity or potential ambivalence.

In this very narrow sense, 2013’s The Last of Robin Hood is a lot like a fairy tale. It tells the true story of the May-December romance between screen icon Errol Flynn and 15-year-old aspiring starlet Beverly Aadland, enabled by Aadland’s over-eager stage mother, Flo. The relationship would be Flynn’s last dalliance, and arguably his most notorious.

Kevin Kline (No Strings Attached) does a fine job portraying Flynn as suave and predatory, yet also vulnerable and apparently sincere in his affection for Beverly. Susan Sarandon (The Greatest) as Flo, and Dakota Fanning (The Runaways) as Beverly, turn in equally creditable performances that come awfully close, but never quite succeed in teasing out hidden character depths that simply aren’t there in the film’s wafer-thin material.

Dakota Fanning and Kevin Kline in The Last of Robin Hood.

Dakota Fanning and Kevin Kline in The Last of Robin Hood.

It’s probably unfair to fault a film based on a true story for being predictable—filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have obviously chosen to be true to events as they actually occurred, which means they doesn’t have the luxury of throwing in twists to keep the audience guessing. So, of course, an older man is powerfully attracted to a beautiful young girl; of course the young girl is seduced by the older man’s fame, wealth, and lavish attentions; and of course the ambitious stage mother—whose own stage dreams were thwarted in her youth—will, wicked-witch style, shove her daughter into the oven of adult sexuality and public scorn in the hopes that making Beverly infamous will somehow make her actually famous. If you guessed that Flynn would die mere days before being able to fulfill his promises to marry Beverly and write her into his will—leaving her high and dry—you guessed right.

The problem isn’t that the plot is a familiar one—one could say the same of just about any story. What’s curiously lacking in this film, given the subject matter, is any complexity or nuance to the characters’ motivations or perceptions of their own situations. If Flynn ever wonders whether his love for Beverly has harmed her by robbing her of a normal teenage life and friends her own age, or if Beverly ever wonders the same, or if Flo ever asks herself whether love for her daughter is the true motivation for her actions, we don’t see it.

You don’t have to be a teenager dating a 50-year-old movie star to wonder occasionally if the path you’ve taken in life is one you’ve chosen or been pushed into. And you don’t have to be a ruthless stage mother to wonder from time to time if the decisions you’ve made ostensibly for the betterment of your children really tended to buoy your own ideas of happiness more than theirs. So the utter lack of ambivalence or even a moment of self-reflection on the part of the characters makes this film feel unengaging and lifeless. Ultimately, we see a bunch of things happen but learn nothing of substance about the characters, or ourselves.

The late-‘50s period details and costumes are competently realized. But, in an age of Mad Men and Downton Abbey—or, heck, even VH1’s Hindsight—they’re not the justification for viewing an otherwise forgettable film that they might once have been.

If you’re an Errol Flynn fan and have a keen interest in anything that gives you a backstage-glimpse into the details of his private life, The Last of Robin Hood is worth seeing. Otherwise, you’re better off seeing the original Robin Hood and pondering—which this movie never does—why there continues to be such a wide gulf between what we love about our on-screen heroes and what we expect from them when the cameras stop rolling.

 

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About Gwen

Gwen Cooper is a movie and TV lover and the author of Homer's Odyssey (no, not the one you're thinking of).