It would be impossible for Nabokov to publish Lolita today, now that all of life, and all of art, must be arranged, categorized, and restricted as a way of protecting not just our children but also our own easily offended sensibilities. It's supposed to make us feel uncomfortable, but Lolita is, at least, a work of fiction. What are we to make of a 48-year-old man who takes up with an underage girl in real life? More to the point, how do you make a movie about it without being either sensationalistic or moralistic?
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland pull it off in The Last of Robin Hood, which covers the final two years in the life of Errol Flynn, who died in 1959, at age 50, reportedly in the arms of his 17-year-old lover, a sometime actress and dancer named Beverly Aadland. But Glatzer and Westmoreland don't milk scandal for moral purpose. Instead, they allow their actors -- Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning, and Susan Sarandon -- the space and freedom to give shape to a story that's less about victimization than about the complexities of feeling and sexual desire. The tenderness between Flynn and Beverly, as they're played here, feels genuine: As Beverly, Fanning has the demeanor of a grave elf. She's neither conniver nor naïf -- she's a young woman who fell into a relationship that many would call ill-advised.
Kline swan-dives into Flynn's complexities without making excuses for him. Kline has had a successful enough career, yet he sometimes seems a star born in the wrong time, perhaps, too debonair for an era in which the most elegant, romantic characters we can think of spring from comic books.