1 1/2 Stars
The Identical opens with a gorgeous shot of a Cadillac driving along a dirt road in the middle of a deserted cotton field. It’s Alabama 1972, in the back of the luxury car sits Drexel ‘The Dream’ Hemsley (Blake Rayne), sipping on the last of a bourbon cocktail. The look and strange behavior of the character is supposed to invoke an obvious Elvis Presley comparison. Hemsley rolls down the window and peers out to the long stretching acres. The ghost of field workers from the past begin to appear. It’s a sequence that works and it’s noteworthy, because very little else works.
The story tells us that during the great depression, a couple had twin boys. Unable to financially support both children, they decided to give one child to the local pastor (Ray Liotta) and his barren wife (Ashley Judd). All parties agreed to total secrecy and they parted ways, never to be in contact, again. The pastor’s son, Ryan Wade (also Rayne), grows up in the church. He is a staple at service and actively participates in the choir. His father pushes him to heed ‘the call’ and begin to take steps that would see him ordained.
Meanwhile, Wade’s identical twin (Blake Rayne) becomes a wildly successful ’50s rock star, while Ryan (also Rayne), struggles to balance his musical aspirations with pleasing his parents, who want him to become a preacher. When Wade wins a Hemsley look-a-like contest it launches him into the spotlight and his own music career — as a Drexel Hemsley impersonator.
Naturally, Ryan becomes tired of performing someone else’s music and pushes to record his own material. This causes friction with his producer/manager. Soul-searching is done before Wade decides to strike out and become his own man, returning to his family and faith.
There is a good story contained within the fractured narrative on-screen. I get the feeling, the original script was re-drafted for a ‘faith based’ angle. That’s fine but the update doesn’t add anything to the story, it only confuses the flow and makes Wade to appear weak and lost. Blake Rayne is good at playing Elvis. Liotta is nicely tuned into the vibe and does well with a small role. While, Ashley Judd hams it up in one of the worst performances of her not so distinguished career. Her dependence on over-emoting would have been too much in a silent film, here it’s obnoxious.
The Identical takes a far-fetched concept and doesn’t add anything interesting to the tale. This could have easily been shot for a television movie and very little would have to be altered. It’s a shame the creative team decided to regurgitate warmed over scenes from other musical bio-pics, instead for fleshing out realistic characters and dilemmas. Like its title character, The Identical is an impostor.
Director: Dustin Marcellino
Stars: Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd