Movie review: ‘The Identical’
Directed By Dustin Marcellino
Starring Blake Rayne, Erin Cottrell, Amanda Crew, Brian Geraghty, Seth Green, Ashley Judd, Joe Pantoliano, Ray Liotta
Rated PG, Drama, 107 minutes
The further we get from his death, the more the myth of Elvis Presley seems to grow. Perhaps it’s because he died relatively young, or perhaps, it’s because we learned much more about the singer in the years following his death. His enormous presence and unique singing style thrilled many a young female. Later, his bejeweled jumpsuits paired with over-the-top sunglasses made some of us cringe.
Elvis’ life, previously depicted in two TV movies, is ripe for a biopic feature film. Here, however, screenwriter Howard Klausner (working from a story by Wade Cummins) explores an alternative reality — what if Elvis’s twin brother wasn’t stillborn but lived and was adopted by a preacher (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd)? In this film the Elvis character is named Drexel Helmsley while his surviving adopted twin is named Ryan Wade. In an effort to make its focus more interesting, we see little of pop star Drexel “The Dream” Helmsley and a whole lot of Ryan Wade. Either Drexel or Ryan sing a half dozen sound-a-like Elvis ditties. Both twins are played by real-life Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne. The film’s forgettable songs were written by the director’s father and grandfather.
We see little of pop star Drexel, except as he is seen through the eyes of Ryan, who, along with everyone else, never seems too concerned about the reason he looks and sounds exactly like mega-star Drexel.
The film attempts to mine conflict from the presumption that Ryan will forsake his love of music and go into the ministry to please his preacher father. This story thread unravels once we sense the conflict belongs to Ryan’s father, not Ryan. Mostly, we wish Ryan would be given a shot at the same opportunities making Drexel a millionaire many times over.
Ryan’s fascination with honky-tonks, and bluesy-back street musicians, makes his preacher father apoplectic. In contrast, the preacher’s long-suffering wife is more concerned because they’ve never told Ryan he is adopted.
The characters are nicely portrayed by all the actors, including Blake Ryan, who looks the part and channels a number of Elvis qualities. The story, narrated by Ryan’s wife (Erin Cottrell), eventually gives Ryan a modicum of success. After competing in a Drexel-impersonator contest, Ryan wins and is awarded with a grueling schedule that requires him to perform at state fairs booked under the moniker “The Identical.” The fans chase Ryan with a zeal that helps him understand Drexel’s reclusive ways. Ryan eventually quits the circuit, having decided he wants to establish his own musical career, not for the money but for the validation of his own talent.
Meanwhile, the film scripts a 20-something Ryan to marry his high school crush while maintaining a purity of heart. Ryan’s wife stands by him mainly through “better” but also for a touch of “worse.” The film’s wish fulfillment gives Elvis a second chance through Ryan, who never loses his family’s love, nor his way.