First, let me say it’s always a pleasure to watch Kevin Kline perform. From his award-winning ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ (1988), to his moving ‘Sophie’s Choice’ ( 1982), to his recent work in ‘Queen to Play’ (2009) and ‘Darling Companion’ (2012). Now he embodies Errol Flynn in ‘The Last of Robin Hood.’ His natural warmth and humor give an authenticity to all the characters he plays, in comedies and dramas, from young, handsome pirate to freedom fighter to aging male escort.
I even accept his appearance in ‘…Robin Hood.’ Handsome as he is, he’s no match for Flynn in his youth, but Flynn’s heavy drinking and other bad habits sought revenge on his face at a very early age. Kline, now 67 years old, can convincingly play the 50 year old Flynn. But I found something sorely missing in this film. I just can’t believe the biggest rogue of Hollywood’s golden age would be so tame, even shortly before his death. I read ‘My Wicked, Wicked Ways,’ Flynn’s autobiography, years ago and if the book actually reflects his later years, he was still cavorting with the best of them, possibly the best among them all. I can’t see him calmly with drink in hand, retelling a story of pranks long past in a sedate, daytime cocktail party. He was still a larger-than-life character till the end.
Of course, his penchant for very young woman would not abate with age. But it was difficult to see why he was so smitten with one of then-15-year-old Beverly Aadland. Sure, she was pretty, but so dull! Dakota Fanning played her from naive, to hurt with the loss of innocence, to adoring partner with a range of 1 to 3 out of 10. Flynn was still adored and could have continued to look out his office window and pick out the young beauties he wanted to share his bed. I don’t buy that he would actually stop with such a tame, dull girl.
Thrown into the bargain was Beverly’s meddling mother, Florence, played with subtle desperation, and master skills in manipulation, while still overwhelmed by the attentions and lavish lifestyle thrown upon her and her nubile daughter by Flynn. Susan Sarandon was the spark, neigh, fire, in this film. One always flinched when she entered a scene. What did she want now — from her daughter, Flynn, press, biographer? And how would she twist the situation to get it? Sarandon played no stereotypical Hollywood mother and was full of surprises.
I hate for people to remember Flynn by the characterization made in this film, charming as Kline is. I remember reading about Flynn flying with a buddy in a single-engine prop, thermos full of vodka (his favorite drink only because it passed for water when checked by authorities if they didn’t taste it), land in his favorite spot, Jamaica, where he often stayed, without Beverly. The name of Errol, and feminine offshoots of Errol, carried by many of the Jamaican children of that period, attest to his love of adventure till the very end, the rapscallion.
From Wikipedia: ‘When she complained to Errol that he was paying all his attention to the book (‘My Wicked Wicked, Ways’ with a co-writer while in Jamaica) and little to her, Errol responded to her complaint ‘That’s right! I’m paying a helluva lot of attention to my book! Twenty-four hours a day and I’m going to keep on!” Not the response of the lovelorn, aging has been to the last great love of his life.
The Last of Robin Hood
Director/Writer: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
Cast: Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Dakota Fanning, Matt Kane
Time: 90 min.
Opening September 5 in the Bay Area at: Embarcader Center Cinema, San Francisco; Century Cinema, Mountain View; Shattuck Cinermas 10, Berkeley; Regency Cinema 6; San Rafael; Summerfield Cinemas 5, Santa Rosa