When it comes to crafting a good Hollywood biopic, more than half the battle is in the casting — and the more famous (or infamous) the subject, the harder it is to get it right. The Last of Robin Hood finds Kevin Kline in the role of notorious mid-century Hollywood lothario Errol Flynn, and the pairing may well go down as one of the smarter choices the genre has seen. As Flynn (depicted here in the months leading up to his death), Kline creates a persona that is at once likable and deplorable, outspoken and introverted, charismatic and strangely approval-seeking. Better still, the two men resemble each other physically so thoroughly the casting almost seems fated.
Fittingly, fate plays a large role in The Last of Robin Hood, which follows the famously sordid affair between Flynn and 15-year-old actress Beverly Aadland (played here with coy charm by Dakota Fanning). In a story that starts at its end point and then flashes back, we learn that Flynn was both a forceful lover and a hopeless romantic and that Aadland was more or less groomed to be a young temptress by her mother (Susan Sarandon), who maintains that the pair were “destined to be together” throughout her quasi-omniscient narrative of the pair’s love life.
While Robin Hood belongs to Klein, Sarandon’s turn as the stage mother trying to live out her thwarted Hollywood dreams through her child is easily the film’s most unnerving set piece. Over the course of the plot’s 90-minute runtime, Sarandon slowly unfurls Florence Aadland’s troubles, which range from a career-ending accident to a deep alcohol dependency to a disturbingly twisted understanding of mother-daughter dynamics. Together, Sarandon’s and Klein’s characters act as bizarre foils to one another, each wrapped up in a story that muddies right and wrong and mixes salaciousness with something that resembles heartfelt love. It’s a heady cocktail, served up by two of Hollywood’s strongest players, and it’s not to be missed.