If you didn’t take Elvis 201 in university you may not be aware of the fact that The King was nearly a twin brother. Jesse Garon Presley was stillborn just prior to the birth of Elvis Aaron. Musical history could have been forever changed if Jesse, perhaps an identical twin, had survived.
But what if he did? In The Identical we meet Ryan Wade (Blake Rayne), a young man who was given to a traveling pastor and his wife (Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd) when his impoverished parents decided they could not afford to provide for their twin boys. Raised as an only child in a conservative and religious family, Ryan accepted the house rules that included no drinking or smoking. However, when it came to music, the young man just couldn’t stay away from the local roadhouse and honky-tonk. Even though he refused the booze, his father was not happy to discover his minor-aged son and friends dancing to the devil’s tunes after the police raided the mixed-race hangout.
Rather than rebel, Ryan attempts to conform to his father’s expectations. Joining the army, attending a bible college and eventually taking a job at a local garage, the young man continues to be distracted by his love of rock ‘n’ roll. Nor does it help that everyone says he’s a dead ringer for the singing sensation Drexel Hemsley (also played by Rayne), a fictitious character who is essentially Elvis Presley. Soon Ryan discovers he can earn some serious cash impersonating the style and image of the big star, who of course is the twin Ryan is not aware of. Along the way he also learns that the price of fame may outweigh what it pays in dollars.
With the exception of cigarette smoking (an accurate representation for the period) and the frequent depiction of alcohol consumption (some involving minors), there are few other content concerns for parents. Ryan continues his abstinence from liquor throughout the story, recognizing the deleterious effect it has on the lives of others around him. Providing even more reason to seek this movie as a family viewing choice, Ryan determines to still honor his adoptive parents in spite of his father’s disappointment in his choice of career.
Artistically this film offers a mix of high points and awkward moments. The first act is impressive as we watch the desperate parents (played by Brian Geraghty and Amanda Crew) offering one of their sons to a couple who have been unable to conceive. Ray Liotta’s performance rises far beyond expectations, as does the masterful work of a team of makeup artists who take his character from young to elderly in a most convincing fashion. Unfortunately there are also confusing choices in this parallel Elvis universe, especially when the script mentions some real life big names in music, including Elvis. There should be two big payoff opportunities within this concept—the meeting of the twins and the eventual reuniting of Ryan with his birth parents. Without spoiling the outcomes, all I can say is both fell short of their potential.
Those seeking a faith-based movie, or a title they can share with virtually all ages, will appreciate The Identical for its family focus and a lead character’s commitment to leading a life void of the usual vices. An additional bonus is the more than a dozen original songs included in the screenplay, most performed by Blake Rayne. In reality, this actor/singer is a professional Elvis impersonator and he delivers a solid musical tribute. Overall, it’s an interesting concept that speculates on what might have happened had Jesse Garon taken his first breath.
Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...
Violence: A teenaged boy steals the family car.Police raid a bar and arrest a couple of minor-aged patrons—one is hit and punched by an officer. Some racial discrimination is implied.
Sexual Content: Couples are shown embracing.A miscarriage and infertility are briefly mentioned.
Language: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters, including minors, drink alcohol in bars, social settings and in private. Some appear to be drunk. Characters are seen smoking.
Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...
How does their different upbringings affect the lives led by these identical twins? Which do you think has more impact on a person: nature or nurture? What advantages and disadvantages did each of them experience? In your opinion, was one of them better off than the other? Why or why not?
Ryan has very different ideas about his life calling than his father has. Do they still manage to show respect to each other? How do they work through these disappointments?
Learn more about Elvis Presley—a real life star who rose to fame during the same time period in which this movie is set.
Home Video Notes
The Identical releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack) with the following special features:
- The Music of The Identical
- The Making of The Identical
- Behind-the-Scenes w/Cast Commentary
- Zaxby's Promotional Video
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer