TORONTO — Attending a film festival requires a working critic to see four to six movies a day for the better part of a week — kids, please don’t try this at home — and one of the more fascinating aspects of such an experience is the window it provides into what might be termed star strategies. Consciously or not, actors announce how they want to be perceived with each new release. Does a recent discovery want to be recognized as an acting heavyweight? Can a child star advance to grown-up roles? What options are open to leading men and ladies who have aged out of the industry’s obsession with youth? The Toronto International Film Festival, which wrapped up another 11-day program on Sunday, offered examples of all of these and more.
In some cases, the picture wasn’t a pretty one. “The Last of Robin Hood” looks good (i.e., alluringly sleazy) on paper: A fact-based drama of the final days of movie star Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline), highlighting his romance with 15-year-old Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning) and her relationship with her crass, stagestruck mother (Susan Sarandon). Given all the talent, it’s mysterious that the film turns out to be junk: a flatly written, blandly directed drama that’s barely worthy of co-producer Lifetime and that defeats both Kline (trying to play a touchstone of screen derring-do) and Fanning (do what she can, Aadland just isn’t interesting).