The Identical is 107 minutes of a complex storyline that pulls in an impressive bounty of both universal and cultural themes, yet delivers no substantial exploration of any of them. Played by Blake Rayne, protagonist Ryan Wade is given up as an infant to a preacher––played by Ray Liotta––and his infertile wife during the Great Depression in an act of both hard necessity and spiritual selflessness.
Wade’s identical twin Drexel Hemsley––also played by Rayne––grows up to be a famous rock artist in the genre’s infancy. His fame casts an unrelenting shadow over Wade’s own musical career as a Drexel Hemsley impersonator while neither character is aware that they have a brother. Wade’s adoptive father disapproves of his musicianship.
The conflicts in the film are fickle and uncertain. From the start, Wade struggles with love, greed, racist law enforcement, black culture and problems within the growing rock n’ roll culture. Thrown into this overwhelming mix are familial conflicts, spiritual tradition and introspection––all in the first 30 minutes.
With the same reckless haste in which they are introduced, these concepts pointlessly end as mere scattershot surrounding a relatively boring conflict: Wade failing to find his way in an industry already conquered by his lost twin.
Wade also struggles with the predictable conflict of getting his dream girl Jenny, played by Erin Cottrell. Like every other woman in the film, Jenny is an utterly static and flat character whose agency obediently lies in Wade’s hands.
Jenny is the cause for director Dustin Marcellino’s failure of the Bechdel test. To pass this “test,” a film must have at least two female characters––each of who must speak to each other at least once––and it must be about something other than a man. The only moment when the film comes close to passing is one line shared between Reece Wade and Helen Hemsley concerning Wade as an infant.
Seth Green’s character Dino reads like an aborted attempt by Marcellino to put comic relief into an early draft. Dino’s one or two out-of-place jokes considered, no audience would notice if he were cut even though the apparition of Green’s weasel face does at times pass for comedy.
The acting offers little redemption for the film. Rayne’s performance as a rock star is not believable as either Wade or Hemsley. As a typecast actor, Liotta’s performance is predictable at worst and par at best. Ashley Judd, Erin Cottrell and Amanda Crew prove that they are excellent at crying, smiling and dying.
The Identical is presented as a PG family film, which for some might allow it some slack in terms of cinematic quality. Essentially, it just has to keep people less bored for an hour and thirty minutes. Perhaps Marcellino thought a movie about music would accomplish this easily enough. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.