Musical dramas often present predictable and cliché stories. Troubled characters and relationships riddled with conflict are usually at the forefront of movies that fall into this genre. The Identical, while being a squeaky clean and sincere tale, is one such film that goes the direction of “been there, done that”. It is rated PG and has some religious undertones, making it appropriate for the entire family. The performances feel very familiar and so does the movie’s ultimate message. With a bland plot and decent songs, it isn’t necessarily a bad film; it just doesn’t go above that of average quality.
The film starts during the Great Depression in the middle of America, where a struggling young couple, the Hemsleys (Brian Geraghty and Amanda Crew), give birth to two identical twin boys. When they learn that the local man of God, Reverend Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd) can’t conceive, they offer one of their sons up for adoption, so that the Wades can fill the emptiness in their lives. Both boys grow up and go in very different directions but both share a passion for music. Drexel Hemsley becomes a highly successful and popular music icon (similar to Elvis Presley) and Ryan Wade (the adoptee) lives a more traditional life, fixing cars, sneaking into nightclubs, and trying desperately to win his father’s affection.
The film focuses on Drexel and Ryan (both played by newcomer Blake Rayne), twin brothers separated by birth and by wholly alternate lifestyles. With Ryan’s hopes of becoming a singer/songwriter, he soon becomes a Drexel impersonator, so much so that the two brothers’ lives eventually intersect. The Reverend Wade wants Ryan to follow in his holy footsteps and this is when both men clash, both wanting very different things out of life.
Blake Rayne does an okay job in the film’s leading roles. He’s a much better singer than he is an actor and his Elvis-esque style and performances on stage are some of the film’s highlights. The rocky relationship Ryan has with his father are executed well and it features some of Ray Liotta’s best acting, as a loving father who wants the best for his son but expresses said love in a way that sadly pushes Ryan away. Their troubled relationship is the emotional glue that holds the film together and it is at times, heartbreaking.
Supporting roles from Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Joe Pantoliano, and Erin Cottrell all serve the film quite well and with such an admirable cast, it’s a shame that the film isn’t better. The story and dialogue are to blame. Being predictable and in some instances, boring, screenwriter Harold Klausner’s The Identical just doesn’t go past a B-movie Hallmark film status. Families might enjoy it for movie night and some of the songs are catchy but the film is just a watered down Walk the Line, with few memorable performances other than that of the wonderful Mr. Liotta. The Identical has at its heart, a noble purpose, decent acting, and an adequate soundtrack, but other than that, it’s just second-rate.
The Identical will be released theatrically on September 5th, 2014