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The Identical




The Identical (PG)
Not-Elvis Presley and his twin brother grow up in different families but with a similar love of music in The Identical, a movie that kept August (and its tradition of strange and terrible film) alive for another week.

09/11/14
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Not-Elvis Presley and his twin brother grow up in different families but with a similar love of music in The Identical, a movie that kept August (and its tradition of strange and terrible film) alive for another week.
 
Not-Elvis is, for purposes of this non-trademark infringing movie, named Drexel Hemsley (Blake Ryan). Like the real-life Elvis, Drexel was born an identical twin during the Great Depression (cue the boxcar scene! cue the black and white!). Unlike Elvis (whose brother was stillborn, according to Wikipedia), Drexel’s brother was a healthy baby but his parents —William (Brian Geraghty) and Helen (Amanda Crew) — can’t afford the two extra mouths to feed. So William somehow, inexplicably, persuades Helen that the thing to do is to give one of the babies to the childless preacher Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife Louise (Ashley Judd). William makes Reece promise that they won’t tell their baby — who was originally named Dexter but whom the Wades call Ryan — about his origins until both the bio-parents are dead. 
 
Ryan Wade (Blake Rayne) grows up to be a dutiful son following in his father’s preaching footsteps. But what he really loves is music, as we see when he and his buddy Dino (Seth Green, of all people) head to a roadhouse to enjoy the rollicking nascent beginnings of rock-n-roll. One night, Ryan even finds his way on stage, where his slightly-edgier-than-Pat-Boone song-stylings thrill the crowd — only to have the cops break up the evening. Papa Wade shows up — ending Ryan’s date with Jenny (Erin Cottrell) — and tells Ryan to man up and, to that end, makes him enlist in the Army. But the Army (as portrayed by a motor-pool set- piece that makes a TV movie about the making of an Elvis Army movie seem like a Ken Burns documentary) only increases Ryan’s love of music. When he comes home, he tries to make a go of it at preacher school, but is constantly pulled back to singing, especially as the rocker named Drexel Hemsley hits the bigtime with a singing and performance style remarkably close to Ryan’s. As Drexel grows more famous, Ryan realizes he can have a nice career performing as “the Identical” — basically, as an impersonator for a man who, unbeknownst to either of them, is his actual twin. 
 
I don’t normally take a lot of notes during a movie screening — I find it distracts me from actually watching a film to start the critique process before the movie is done. But, with The Identical, there were so many elements I didn’t want to forget:
 
•  The movie is awash in godawful, near-beer Elvis-ish music, music that made me think of the unauthorized Janis Joplin biography Jackie Jormp-Jomp, with its faux Joplin music, that Jenna starred in on 30 Rock.
 
• “How old is anybody?” says one of my notes. Sometimes people get aging make-up, sometimes, as in the case where grown-up Ryan unknowingly sings to his bio-mom Helen, the aged person (Helen, in this case) looks more or less the same as when we saw them 20 years ago in movie time.
 
 • Nearly every scene involving Seth Green is laugh out loud hilarious in ways that I’m pretty sure were mostly not intentional. In one scene, which in itself is worth the price of admission, Dino, now making the big bucks as part of Ryan’s “the Identical” tour, opens up an envelope full of cash. I’m sure the idea is that it’s big money but it looks like an envelope full of, maybe, 13 one-dollar bills, so the scene reads as the perennially young-looking Green being totally psyched his grandma sent him birthday money.
 
• Hair. My notes included these following phrases: “comical mustache,” “Seth Green’s Allman Brothers wig” and “Flock of Seagulls?” I also wrote “Prince hair” but on reflection what I meant was “Roseanne dressed as Prince in that Halloween episode of Roseanne hair.” There are a gaggle of fascinating, scene-stealing wigs in The Identical. What do you call that, a herd of wigs? A pride of wigs? Perhaps a murder of wigs, like the crows some of the pompadours sort of resemble?
 
• Dialogue: Jenny to Ryan, five years after she last saw him: “How was the Army?” Ryan’s response: “Oh, it was fine.” Ryan upon hearing rock-n-roll: “something just happens to me when I hear music.” A police officer breaking up the dance-night at the roadhouse says Ryan is “a preacher’s boy bringing the devil’s music.” “War broke out in the Middle East last night,” starts a news report about what I think was the Six Days War, which the movie builds a few scenes around, for no particular reason. “I made you, Ryan Wade, and don’t you forget it” — Ryan’s “The Identical” manager to the increasingly disenchanted Ryan.
 
• Another of my notes says “jacket is lovechild of Wilson’s Leather & Chico’s,” about one of the Ryan-as-Drexel get-ups.  Though that floor-length leather jacket will haunt my dreams, there were many eyeball assaulting costumes in this movie, wherein all visuals exist somewhere on the spectrum between “church theater group repurposing yard sale leftovers” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story camp.” The look of the film, though, fits just fine with the general effort level of the performers, whose acting ranges from zero to just a notch below “drunk people playing charades” in terms of subtlety and nuance. I’m not saying, to be clear, that the actors were drunk, but I do suggest that you drink, copiously, while watching the movie. 
 
According to imdb.com, Blake Rayne is a celebrated Elvis impersonator. According to Wikipedia, this movie is a “Christian musical drama film,” that somehow celebrates faith in God. According to me, I don’t think either “the King” should be held responsible for this crazy blend of weak-knock-off jukebox musical and counterfactual-history-as-fan-fiction that Mary Sues a religious-ish person into the history of rock and roll. God has better writing credits and Elvis has a lot more screen presence. F+
 
Rated PG for thematic material and smoking. Directed by Dustin Marcellino and written by Howard Klausner, The Identical is an hour and 47 minutes long and is distributed by Freestyle Releasing.  
 
 
 
 





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