Well, folks, the synergy between commercialized Christianity and the movie-making business has officially gotten weird. I wandered into a press screening for The Identical knowing next to nothing about it, which turned out to be a bit like taking mushrooms and wandering into a clown college audition. Every ten minutes is some new epiphany hitting you like a bucket of cold water. “Wait, THAT’S what this movie is about?”
How can I possibly prepare you for such an experience?
Maybe it makes more sense if I tell it from the beginning. The Identical was directed by Dustin Marcellino, and produced by a number of fellow Marcellinos. Closest I can tell, the Marcellino family, heirs to a presumably lucrative musical legacy begun by Dustin’s grandfather, Jerry, who wrote songs for the Jackson 5, now control a Christian music empire begun by Dustin’s Israeli father, Yochanan. At some point, the Marcellinos hooked up with “the world’s number one Elvis impersonator,” Ryan Pelton, deciding that Pelton would stop impersonating Elvis and become “Blake Rayne,” Zionist Christian rock superstar†. The Marcellinos would introduce Rayne to the world in The Identical, this sort of dual Christian rock origin story and royalty-free Elvis biopic parable (ironic coming from a group whose wealth came from musical royalties).
Of course, that’s just the backstory. What actually makes it to the screen in The Identical is this strangely stilted biopic about Not Elvis with a separated-at-birth twist. Blake Rayne, every bit as unctuous as his stage name suggests, with creepy jet black dracula hair, plays the dual role of Ryan Wade and Drexel Helmsley, identical twins born to poor sharecroppers during the depression. Helmsley’s parents give one son away to a childless traveling minister named Wade (played by Ray Liotta and his scary permanent eyeliner), and raise the other as his rock sensation doppelganger, Drexel Helmsley, a name I plan to type as much as possible because it is amazing. The movie follows the given-away son Ryan Wade through his life, becoming this sort of Christianized Forrest Gump movie in which the lead weirdo evolves through a series of party store Halloween costumes (greaser, hippie, sock hop) until he eventually becomes… the world’s most sought-after Drexel Helmsley impersonator.
Get it?! It’s just like Ryan Pelton/Blake Rayne story! They are two aspects of the same man, that’s why they are played by the same man! The funny thing is, no one in the film ever confuses Ryan Wade for Drexel Helmsley. People just tell him “Man, you really look like Drexel Helmsley,” as if they already read the script.
Can you guess how this film will end? I know, you’re probably thinkin’ Ryan Wade will just be content to be a Drexel Helmsley impersonator his whole life and stay out of the church forever, right? Sorry, I can’t spoil a twist like that.
Like an earnest Walk Hard or 30 Rock’s “Jackie Jormp-Jomp,” The Identical plays like someone saw five musician biopics and tried to recreate one without bothering to find a musician first. Some of the not-Elvis songs on the Identical soundtrack include: “Bee Boppin Baby,” “Nashville Tonight,” and “Boogie-Woogie Rock n Roll.” Trust me when I say that Christianized Elvis music is every bit as saccharine and uncomfortable as that sounds. I also like to imagine that instead of a girl who likes to dance, “Bee Boppin Baby” is about a girl at church trying to swat a bee away from her fancy bonnet. Bee boppin baby, summer time too..