[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith Guardians of the Galaxy dominating at the box office, you can be forgiven if you didn’t notice a little film called The Identical released this weekend. (The Pit posted about it before. You can catch up here: http://thepit-se.com/2014/07/28/christian-themed-documentary-miniseries-indentity-premiere/)
Ryan (Blake Rayne) is the adopted son of a preacher (Ray Liotta) struggling to find his calling. To Dad’s dismay, he realizes it’s as a musician rather than a man of God.
Soon, Ryan stumbles upon singer Drexel Hemsley (also portrayed by Rayne) who resembles him, and even plays like him — shedding light on a life-altering family secret. (Spoiler: they’re brothers!)
Though adapting aspects of Elvis Presley’s life, anyone expecting a fictionalized account of the Elvis’s story will be disappointed. In fact, the man himself is mentioned late in the film, confirming his existence in the narrative’s world.
Naturally, that begs the question: why bother then?
Regardless, Blake Rayne was clearly cast for his striking resemblance to the King; and he perfectly reflects that humble, good-old-boy air Presley was so famous for.
The rest of the cast, full of top names, has potential, but the execution is heavy-handed and uneven. Liotta overplays at times, having nothing better up his sleeve than looking guffawed and stone-faced.
The presence of Seth Green (a man in his 30’s and newly-minted father, who can still get away with playing 19-20) alone raises the camp level to 11. Nonetheless, he is as charming as ever.
What really gives the film energy is its soundtrack, a refreshing throwback to rock music and its roots down South in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Scenes built around musical numbers help things along, and make it all worth working with.
Dramatically, on the other hand, Identical holds much of its fire for the second half, when Ryan’s plan for his career, the fate of his brother, and his familial relations all come to a head. This is where the narrative is strongest.
The Identical tries to be a tamer Crazy Heart or Inside Llewyn Davis; but gives us what has already been seen countless times in other — better — films about its subject matter (Velvet Goldmine, for one, comes to mind), as well as its time period.
Maybe in the hands of another director (Scott Cooper or the Coens, for instance), more complexity or gravitas could have been wrung from the material. Dustin Marcellino could have achieved what he set out to on the small screen.