‘The Last of Robin Hood’: Errol Flynn’s wicked, wacky ways

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Aging bounder Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline) forces himself on 15-year-old Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning) in “The Last of Robin Hood.” | SAMUEL GOLDWYN FILMS

“I’m too old for her, but she’s not too young for me.” — Errol Flynn, in “The Last of Robin Hood.”

In Hollywood as well as the rest of the world, there are different kinds of 50.

The newly married Brad Pitt is 50. Pitt looks great, is enjoying a huge life on the global stage and remains an international movie star.

By the time Errol Flynn was 50, he was a scandalized has-been more than a decade past his prime, suffering from myriad health problems, nearly broke, marinating in a sea of booze, self-administering morphine and heroin — and in the throes of a two-year relationship that began with statutory rape when the girl was just 15.

This sordid tale is chronicled in “The Last of Robin Hood,” a late 1950s period piece that plays in a minor key (it’s clearly not a big-budget production), tempering some of the more lurid details of the scandal. It lands just this side of camp, with a perfectly cast Kevin Kline hamming it up as the aging bounder Flynn, and Susan Sarandon really hamming it up as the peg-legged, hard-boozing Florence Aadland, who started pushing her daughter Beverly to get into showbiz right around the time she was pushing Beverly in a stroller.

Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning) was just 15 when Flynn spotted her on the Warner Brothers lot while he was playing John Barrymore in “Too Much, Too Soon.” (Indeed.) Even though Flynn had narrowly avoided jail when he was acquitted of rape in the 1940s, he is not a man who learns from his mistakes. Flynn forces himself on Beverly and then begins courting her, if you can call it that.

Flynn quickly ascertains the way to Beverly’s heart is through her domineering mother Flo, so he works his creaking but still considerable charms on Flo — flattering her for being such a wonderful mother, listening intently as Flo tells the story of her own crushed showbiz dreams (“I got a callback on a Fred and Ginger movie”), inviting her to come along with him and Beverly on Hollywood outings and even on a trip to New York, where Flo can no longer pretend she doesn’t know the nearly 50-year-old Flynn is sleeping with her underage daughter.

As Flo hobbles about on her one good leg, downing vodka and boasting to everyone about her friendship with Errol Flynn while pressuring Flynn to boost Beverly’s career, Beverly just wants to “go out and stay in” with Flynn. Dakota Fanning brings little spark to the role of Beverly, who seems marginally talented at best and not very interesting. Of course she’s cute, but there’s no fire to Fanning’s performance, whether it’s in the tepid love scenes with Kline or the increasingly volatile exchanges with her blabby mother. Even with Flynn’s notorious reputation and self-destructive lifestyle, we don’t see much of an argument for why he would risk spending the rest of his life in prison for this girl.

(Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, who co-wrote and co-directed, are also a bit too easy on Flynn. We get glimpses of his manipulative ways — in one scene, Flynn sprinkles drops of water on a letter to make it appear as if he’d been crying while writing to Beverly — but the man was a predator in an ascot. Kline’s performance is so winning that “The Last of Robin Hood” sometimes seems to lose sight of that.)

A couple of scenes are pitch-perfect, as when Flo is reluctant for all of about six seconds before she begins spilling every last detail of the scandalous relationship between her underage daughter and the fading movie star, or when Flynn meets with Stanley Kubrick (Max Casella), who wants Flynn to play Humbert Humbert in “Lolita,” a negotiation that falls apart because Flynn insists Beverly play the lead.

As Kubrick tells Flynn, that’s a problem, because not only is Beverly not the most talented actress, she’s already too old for the part.

Samuel Goldwyn Films presents a film written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated R (for some sexuality and language). Opens Friday at local theaters.

[s3r star=3/4]

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