The Identical (2014) Review

2014 was a great year for Christian movies, with instant faith-based classics such as God’s Not Dead and Kirk Cameron’s deeply underrated Saving Christmas (which I will review eventually) making the rounds. But the one that appears most superior and an instant classic on par with Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is Dustin Marcellino’s The Identical.

Now, readers here may not have known this until now, but I’ve been an atheist ever since I was born. I’ve never bought into religion. It’s been entirely wiped clean from my perception for the most part, but when I happen to catch films like The Identical, I get that much closer to seeing the light. Maybe the Lord has been weeping in my absence, throwing these Christian films in my way to get me to convert, and I have to say it’s working. I bought a cross to hang from my car’s rearview mirror, and although I don’t quite know why I have it, it feels good to know that it’s there, and it’s because of this film that I have it.

Now I want you to imagine that somebody wanted to make a movie about Elvis, but decided he couldn’t quite do Elvis justice while suffocating his life’s story with a wholesome Christian message. But what if we made a movie about Elvis’ stillborn identical twin? What if God had thrusted life into this fetus corpse and let it grow up to be Elvis’ frustrated and perpetually oppressed shadow, never to fully live his life’s dream? What if we didn’t name Elvis “Elvis”, but something obviously not just thrown together, something like “Drexel Hemsley”? Well this movie took all of those “what if”’s and put them in a basket of realized amazingness called The Identical, and is it a work of genius? Oh, oh yes.

We have director Dustin Marcellino–whose only previous credit is the short film The Last Train–to thank for giving us this inspiring story of a lifetime, sure to be an instant classic. And who can forget writer Howard Klausner with classics like Space Cowboys and The Grace Card? How can a writer like that ever put out a flop? “He can’t” is the answer to that.

But let’s just look at the cast: we’ve got the incredible tear-jerking newcomer Blake Rayne (aka Elvis impersonator Ryan Pelton) as both rock star Drexel Hemsley and his hopeless identical twin Ryan Wade,

Blake Rayne as Ryan Wade in The Identical

Erin Cottrell as ever-smiley love interest and narrator Jenny O’Brien,

Erin Cottrell as Jenny in The Identical

entirely convincing Seth Green as Ryan’s buddy Dino (unfortunately pronounced dee-noh, not like “dinosaur”),

Seth Green as Dino in The Identical

Ray Liotta as Ryan’s foster father Reese Wade, who should’ve won an Oscar for this,

Ray Liotta as Reese Wade in The Identical

Ashley Judd as Ryan’s lovely foster mother Louise Wade,

Ashley Judd as Louise Wade in The Identical

and Joe Pantoliano in a great little role as Ryan’s boss and buddy Avi Hirshberg.

Joe Pantoliano as Avi Hirshberg in The Identical

Together, this group comes together as an ensemble of brilliance in a nearly flawless spectacle.

The film kicks off without any opening credits and shows us a cotton field with a title card that says: Decatur, Alabama 1972

A guy who must be Elvis in his final days contemplatively drinks a tall glass of whiskey while envisioning a white woman amongst a group of black workers in the field. Perhaps imagining how the past could’ve been different had white people been slaves along with African-Americans?

Oh, yeah, and the film lets us know that this in fact isn’t Elvis right off the bat, just so we’re clear here. No allusions to anything that happened in real rock history.

Blake Rayne as Drexel Hemsley in The Identical

Amanda Crew as Helen Wade in The Identical

Turns out that woman is his mother, according to the introduction made by a woman’s voice over a black and white vision of the past. The past in this case is, in the voice of this nameless woman who knows so much, “Alabama in 1935. A harder world for sure.”

We see a man (Brian Geraghty) and the same woman from the cotton field (Amanda Crew), only with a big belly full of what might be babies. These two ride trains a lot to look for jobs, because “it’s hard to find a job for a hundred miles once the cotton comes in.”

man and woman on train in The Identical

William and Helen Hemsley are their names. She’s not attempting to break the fourth wall there, by the way.

As they hop off the train in a field, the humble Southern-accented narrator informs us that this couple would’ve been better off if they waited to marry and have kids, but “as they usually do, love and passion got in front of logic and patience. And in obedience with the scripture, the Hemsleys set about the business of being fruitful and multiplying.” Wow, these Christians already have me convinced their way of life is best, setting aside reasoning and a comfortable life and instead having a bunch of kids, struggling and staying poor, making their kids nearly unsupportable as they grow up, with the prospect of these kids being uneducated and poor a probability because of their parents being unable to afford college. Wait…

So, William walks into town to get a job. Brian Geraghty does a great job looking persistently desperate.

Brian Geraghty as William Hemsley in The Identical

This is an actor who had a fairly sizable role as an FBI agent in the Emmy-winning series “Boardwalk Empire”–as well as a good part in the hit show “Ray Donovan”–prior to being in this masterpiece. It’s good to see he’s being careful not to sabotage his career.

William asks a man who works the cotton fields if he still has more work, but William’s smile-free face is told there isn’t any. Even the news of a bun in the oven doesn’t change the employer’s mind, so William winds up home again. He’s faced with not one, but two baby boys. My best guess at this point is that they’re identical twins, as the title would suggest.

William smiles for the first and only time at this news before frowning again at a religious gathering in town.

William Hemsley standing by car in black and white

The narrator tells us about his stress and how important this night would be. Who is this omniscient woman?

Anyway, we’re introduced to a shouting Ray Liotta as Reese Wade,

Ray Liotta as Reese Wade in The Identical

who cries out, “Jews and gentiles are all equal in the eyes of the Lord! All equal in the eyes of the Lord!” He hammers this message into his congregation with so much vigor, so much love.

Come to think of it, he’s entirely about the whole Judeo-Christian concept here.

Religious congregation in The Identical

He hollers “it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.” After driving this point to the forefront of his audience’s hive mind (three times to be exact), he then asks them to pray that he and his wife receive a child following a recent miscarriage. Nothing hypocritical at all there.

Ashley Judd weeps as an unwaveringly unhappy William appears to think hard about this “giving” vs. “receiving” thing.

Ashley Judd and Brian Geraghty in The Identical

William suggests to Helen that they give up one of their children in order to properly support the other. Helen hates the idea and suggests they’re fine, but William convinces her otherwise.

The two meet with the Wades, who think that the Hemsleys are simply requesting more money. However, William tells them that they want to give one of their boys to the Wades. It’s the chance for them to have a kid of their own in accordance with their wish to “receive”, but Reese and Louise reject the idea. But then William quotes Reese, saying “it’s truly more blessed to give than to receive,” which seems to convince Reese that receiving is the right thing to do.

The Wade’s take one of the boys and say their teary-eyed goodbyes.

“I don’t know what to say,” Reese says to William.

“There’s nothing to say. He’s God’s now,” William replies logically, because when the baby was William’s he wasn’t God’s, but now that he’s Reese’s he is. Wait… does that mean that Reese is God?

Reese Wade looking up in The Identical

Maybe it subtly means that he’s going to kill the baby, “giving it up to God,” so to speak. We’ll find out.

The narrator tells us about how the couple held a fake funeral for the giveaway baby, complete with a shoebox coffin for dead babies.

Cut to Reese Wade recreating the opening of The Lion King with his new kid.

holding baby in black and white in The Identical

Jump cut to a kid in color popping out of water with a grin on his face and the word “Amen” beside him.

Noah Urrea as Ryan Wade in The Identical

When does this take place exactly? We don’t know. Is this a baptism? Apparently. Why is Reese baptizing this kid at such a late age? Who knows? No, wait, God knows.

This kid loves to sing at church, we find out. The narrator points out just how good he is. “He brings the roof down.” We don’t really get to hear it, however, and instead find him being quizzed by Reese about how many books are in the Bible, because this is vital knowledge. I remember having to remember how many chapters were in my history textbooks as a kid, too.

The kid gets up to Psalms before totally fucking up. Reese points out there are 66 books in the Good Book. That’s one number away from the devil’s (he doesn’t say that bit). Little Ryan here got up to 20 with Psalms. That’s an F, in my book.

After that, a young and vastly more intelligent Rob Ford recites a piece from the Holy Novel with questionable pride.

Kids in church in The Identical

Ryan proves he’s a failure once again when he can’t remember the bit he’s supposed to recite, but then the narrator tells us that “Ryan knew instinctively what every grade school teacher knows: turn it into a song.”

What proceeds is a noise so sweet I had a small seizure and nearly passed out and threw up on myself from the sheer awesomeness of it. It was as if I was hearing God’s voice, sung through this kid, sung through this movie and fizzing in my ears like Pop Rocks of Holy Music. It was amazing, and not at all corny.

While we don’t learn exactly when that took place, the next title card lets us know when the next scene takes place.

title card in club in The Identical

It looks like an all-black club, but a fully grown up Ryan Wade and his friend Dino sit at a table. At least I thought Ryan was all grown up until he acts like he’s never seen a beer before when Dino hands him one.

Boys drinking beer in The Identical

He even inspects it with his nose before putting it down in disgust.

man smelling beer in The Identical

So, how old are these guys supposed to be? Ryan was a kid in the last few scenes, but he couldn’t have been older than 10, and this is 10 years later, so that would make him and his friend no older than 20, but he reacts like that to a beer while looking 40? Okay, then.

Seth Green teases Ryan for not drinking, saying, “C’mon, you can’t be a PK forever.”

“What’s PK?”

“PK, preacher’s kid.” Seth Green sounds like he’s doing his best impression of a smooth cool cat, and I’m not sure if he’s sincere in this attempt or mocking the types of people who do that and would make up acronyms like “PK”.

I guess segregation wasn’t a thing, because all of these African-American patrons are just enjoying their time at this nice undisturbed place while two white guys sit and listen like it’s not weird for them to be there at all.

After the fun ends, it’s time for Ryan to sneak back home.

Ryan sneaking in house in The Identical

Reese is actually sitting in the room and turns the light on. He gets Ryan to admit he was out drinking and points out that he’s underage. The oldest looking underage dude I’ve ever seen. Does he have the same problem Robin Williams did in Jack? It’s not explained. And keep in mind the drinking age was 18 back then, so that means he was younger than that. Man, if I looked like him at 15 I’d have been at every bar in town.

I’m also betting that Seth Green’s character was underage, too, which is really bizarre because Seth was 40 when this was filmed. Wait, according to IMDb, Blake Rayne was also 40. Um, okay, maybe teenagers in the ’50s aged faster.

Well, anyway, we get our first taste of Ryan’s music when he performs “Boogie Woogie Rock ‘n Roll” with Dino in a garage. I can tell it would’ve been a real classic, although I can’t remember how it sounded for some reason.

Later at night, Dino steals his dad’s car with Ryan to go to the honky tonk.

It’s in the scene at the honky tonk where we find out the narrator’s identity as she talks about how Ryan was unlike any boy she’d ever met. This is their first date.

Her reaction to this,

Ryan Wade dancing in The Identical

is this:

Jenny smiling in The Identical
And this will pretty much be her face throughout the entire film.

Smitten with his cheesy white boy dancing, this woman, Jenny, will likely become much more than a simple girlfriend based on her deep knowledge about every aspect of Ryan’s life.

Meanwhile, Seth Green dances drunk with another girl and tells her, “You’re so pretty, in your face.” Nice, Seth. Nice.

Ryan gets a chance to go onstage and in narration, Jenny tells us, “There are many accounts of how, when and where rock ‘n roll was actually born. Now I’m not saying they’re wrong or anything, but I like to believe a part of that birth happened this very night in little old Lebanon, Tennessee.” I’m confused now. Is this guy supposed to replace Elvis in America’s history, or not? Oh, well.

He sings a song that I don’t remember easily for some reason and the crowd goes wild, so obviously my taste in music must be lacking.

But then a cop, who I first thought might be a pre-Presidential Richard Nixon, busts the party.

interrupting cop in The Identical with flashlight
Maybe it was supposed to be Nixon’s unsuccessful identical, Dicksel Blixon.

Dino on the drums decides to run and escape like the 40-year-old little teenager he is, but he gets caught by an officer.

Dino caught by cop in The Identical

Once Nixon cop gives a little condescending lecture and clears everybody out without any racist remarks about the patrons (I guess Tennessee really was tolerant back then), Ryan sits in the back of a police car as his girlfriend walks by in slow motion, not looking too upset, and Seth Green sprints to the car without a hint of comedy,

Seth Green running in The Identical

apologizes, and then darts off as a cop pursues him.

Reese picks him up and has an endearing conversation in his car, oppressing his son once again, and subsequently suppressing his desire to become a music star.

Transition to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 1953. How much longer this is from the last scene, we don’t really know, but it can’t be that far ahead because Ryan looks the exact same as he did at 15. He’ll probably look 60 when he’s 30, regardless of partying.

The narrator tells us wistfully about how he’s in the military because of his ole daddy, and we see him showing off his musical talents once again, to a group of dancing soldiers who don’t look cheesy at all.

Soldiers dancing in The Identical

These are the kinds of men I can picture really serving the country as serious, manly soldiers.

Soldiers smiling and dancing in The Identical

Of course, the fun doesn’t last for long as the sergeant shows up and cuts the music. He doesn’t swear at all. I guess the military authorities were much tamer back then. His mustached face still comes across as aggressive and intimidating, though.

Wait, actually the sergeant seems to not hate this frivolity and instead tells Ryan to play another one. He even poses nearby and bobs his head complacently.

Soldiers having a great time in The Identical

The narrator tells us about how Drexel Hemsley is coming into stardom at the same time, recording music with a band and looking exactly like Ryan. His music sounds just like what we’ve heard Ryan play, but because Ryan’s dad is so oppressive, Ryan hasn’t had a chance to get big. Reese gets Ryan into Bible college to follow in his footsteps.

Ryan’s mother Louise lets Reese know about the rise of Drexel Hemsley and plays some music of his. There’s no keeping Ryan from listening to him, however, as he’s such a big star that it’s inevitable he’ll hear him. Sure enough, he does, and listens to one song of his over and over. I can’t really remember the way it goes, which is odd. It must’ve been good, though, for him to obsess over it so much. I might have to buy the soundtrack.

Reese and Ryan have some conversation in the front of the house as Ryan works on fixing his dad’s car. I don’t really recall the conversation too much oddly enough, because I was too busy wondering how the hell he got his entire torso covered in oil, including his head. I don’t think he went under the car at all, just under the hood.

Ryan Wade working on car in The Identical

Reese tells Ryan something about how God makes us who we are and we are whatever God plans for us to be. It’s all very nice and beautiful, but I’m more interested in the next scene when a perky Joe Pantoliano works in a garage. Ryan shows up there and notices how obsessed the guy is with Drexel Hemsley.

Drexel Hemsley in paper in The Identical

Drexel Hemsley 1956 calendar in The Identical

After Pantoliano crawls out from under the car he’s working on, the guy doesn’t mistake Ryan for Drexel when he says, “You’re a fan, I see.” Nope, instead of wondering if it’s “The Dream” himself, this man seems to detect a slight genetic difference, and asks, “Are you guys related or something? I mean, you’re a dead ringer for him.”

“I know. I hear it all the time,” Ryan replies. Maybe his nose points to the right 2 millimeters more than Drexel’s? I dunno.

Let’s get back on track here. Joe’s character is named Avi Hirshberg, according to IMDb. It sounds like a slurred sandwich name when he says it.

He’s a mousy little guy, and not who I would picture being a part of Drexel’s target audience.

Avi Hirshberg in garage in The Identical

Avi offers Ryan a job, but Ryan turns it down and says he’s got another. He does, as a delivery driver. We see him on the job as he delivers a package and woos the beautiful ladies at the hairdresser with his very presence.

Women being wooed in The Identical

Back at home, Ryan watches a bit of Drexel on TV as he sings a slow, romantic song. This is the one I remember from the film, probably because it’s played several times to the point where it’s drilled in my head like a butcher knife. A good kind of butcher knife, I must point out. I love this song.

Ryan doesn’t seem to think it’s weird at all that he looks and sounds just like Drexel, just like it’s a fact of life in his case to have a famous doppelganger with a Southern upbringing and similar musical talent.

I do find it just a little odd myself how Louise doesn’t look like she’s aged at all compared to Reese, but I suppose she doesn’t need to. I’m totally convinced that 45-year-old Ashley Judd is 40-year-old Blake Rayne’s mother in this scene.

Ashley Judd and Blake Rayne as Louise and Ryan Wade in The Identical

Ryan makes it clear to his mother that he wants to disobey his father’s wishes, and she encourages him.

Next, we get a heartbreaking moment when Ryan tells his father he’s dropped out of Bible college.

They both look equally emotional about this.

Ray Liotta crying believably in The Identical

Ryan Wade sad acting in The Identical

Reese gives in to his son’s wants, but not without expressing disappointment.

Later, Ryan delivers a package to the hospital where Jenny works. She doesn’t even bother to look up at him when he walks in and places the package and clipboard in front of her, only acknowledging his presence once she’s signed. Then she realizes just who it is.

“Jenny,” he says. She’s speechless and smiles, when the other nurse seems to recognize him.

Nurses in hospital in The Identical

The woman walks up close and asks, “Anybody ever tell you you look just like Drexel Hemsley?” She says she thought it was him at first, because Drexel’s mother happens to be in her death bed upstairs.

Ryan asks Jenny on a date, but she says she’s taken, so it doesn’t work out. Well, shit.

He still stays in the hospital regardless, sneaking past the front desk to pay a personal visit to Drexel’s mother once Jenny leaves without any supervisors left behind. He takes some flowers at the front desk as well and brings them up with him.

He sits by Drexel’s mother’s side, prays for her, and tells her Drexel’s music means a lot to him. Sweet. She reaches for his hand, looking like she’s got a horrible case of the flu.

Amanda Crew as sick woman in The Identical

He sings to her, an off-key version of the same romantic song we heard earlier. Why a musical talent would sing so off-key even without the music backing him is strange, but his soul makes up for it, I suppose.

She calls him Dexter and appears to die right then and there.

Sure enough, Jenny’s narration confirms it and says she thinks something died in him that day. An acoustic version of that song he just sang—on-key this time—plays as he looks on in wistful blank sadness.

sad Ryan Wade in The Identical

He decides to get the job at Avi’s, and gets to work as a mechanic. At the same time, he tries to hook up with Jenny again, even though she consistently lets him know she’s seeing somebody. Avi’s wise advice? In so many words, fuck the guy she’s with, you take who you want, Ryan. For some reason he wants to join him in his attempt to get her.

So, the two of them show up outside of Jenny’s apartment one night and Ryan plays the guitar. It’s a charming scene and not like stalking at all, or like any other scene from any other romantic film ever.

Singing to woman outside of apartment in The Identical

Jenny looking outside of window in The Identical

Avi sings along and, again, it’s not cheesy at all.

Sure enough, the cops show up because of the noise, and when Ryan asks Jenny out once again, she says “no.” Ryan’s response? “Look, I know a lot of songs, and I’ll sing every one of them until you say ‘yes.’” Smooth, Ryan. Smooth. Not coercing anybody into a relationship and out of another one here.

“Why are there always police involved with you and me?” Jenny asks. Hahaha, that’s cute.

The police stick around patiently as Ryan gives it another shot with his persistence. It works. She agrees to a cup of coffee, and weirdly invites Avi to come along.

Do we see this date or any development of their relationship? Nope.

Cut to their marriage.

marriage scene in The Identical
It’s great to see characters who appear to love each other for no real reason for once.

Through a montage, we see that the two live a nice life together, watching Drexel Hemsley movies at drive-ins, and having Jenny make Ryan sandwiches to take to work with him like the good submissive ’50s housewife she is. Ah, the American Dream, what ever happened to you?

We eventually find out some time has passed when a TV in Avi’s garage shows the Six-Day War and an entire title card is dedicated to it.

Six-Day War 1967 title card in The Identical

1967. Was that really the most important event around that time? Hmm. What about the Civil Rights Movement? You know, Martin Luther King, Jr.? He had one year left to live in ’67. Maybe he doesn’t exist in the Universe of Drexel Hemsley. “I have a dream” became “The Dream” incarnated as a successful white man, eliminating all forms of racism and making him irrelevant. What about that bigger war, Vietnam? Wasn’t that about to peak at that time? I guess with Drexel Hemsley in the music scene, Lyndon B. Johnson became a fan and became a man of peace. Drexel Hemsley: Bringer of World Peace. Jesus Christ reborn. Except when it comes to Israel, apparently.

But the Six-Day War? That still has to happen in this world. Why? Because it’s in Israel, the birthplace of Christianity. And it’s also where the only other important creed resides, Judaism, whose importance is reinforced by the next sermon Reese gives.

Reese Wade preaching in The Identical

He goes on and on yelling about how relevant Jewish people in Israel are to Christians, and I found myself completely taken aback by his rant. Beautiful, just beautiful.

Jenny, in narration, tells us in the next scene, while holding a mystery baby, “Israel won the war. A modern day miracle.” Yes. A miracle indeed for what was the most important war of all time, apparently. Vietnam didn’t deserve one.

Speaking of miracles, we find that Ryan and Jenny had a kid through her narration, despite the doctors saying it wasn’t possible, for reasons not explained in-depth.

Jenny holding baby in hospital in The Identical

Meanwhile, Reese and Louise decide it’s time for Ryan to learn his true identity as the identical, incidentally.

One night, Ryan and Jenny attend a “Sing Like ‘The Dream’” contest, and Ryan decides to go up and perform after seeing the horrid competition, but not before spotting Dino at the drums, who sees him as well.

Dino drumming in The Identical

They catch up a bit, and apparently Dino’s made a decent living at touring the country as a drummer.

Ryan has a great time on stage, in his haircut that makes him look like a mushroom. A mushroom the ladies love, I guess. He sure riles up the audience.

Ryan Wade singing as impersonator in The Identical

Jenny convinces him to actually ride this to the top as an impersonator, making it to a big contest where his family, Dino and Avi sit as spectators. Dino asks the waiter for a bourbon, but for some reason he changes his mind when he sees Reese’s face, who doesn’t necessarily look disapproving as he’s distracted by earwax buildup.

Ray Liotta picking ear meticulously in The Identical

Dino gets a Shirley Temple instead. All right then.

Several performers play their renditions of Drexel songs, while Ryan prepares, while “The Dream” himself shows up to help judge the contest.

Drexel The Dream sitting at panel in The Identical

Reese and Louise are amazed at how similar he looks to their kid, but it’s probably because he’s an identical twin.

Right before coming out on stage, Ryan appears to have a sudden identity crisis as he asks himself in the mirror, “Who are you?” This is resolved pretty fast, though, as he pops out on stage and starts singing that romantic crooning tune we’ve heard a few times before.

Singing Drexel impersonator in The Identical
Note the guy on the right who looks deeply depressed by the performance.

The Dream is certainly moved,

Drexel touched by performance in The Identical

as are his friends and family, tearing up.

Jenny gives the same expression she always does, however.

Jenny ecstatic in The Identical

When he’s wrapped up his performance, Drexel is the first to clap as the rest of the crowd joins in. Truly inspirational. He gets up and tells the judges, “That’s your winner,” before walking off without a second glance back. I’m in tears just remembering this scene. Has me dropping the wet little shits all over my keyboard, I might just short circuit the laptop. So far it hasn’t sparked or anything, so I guess I can call this my own little miracle. Sweet Jesus.

Ryan wins $25,000 from the contest as the winner, and a guy who doesn’t look unlike Kurt Russell crossed with Beavis

Ryan Wade manager in The Identical

offers Ryan the chance to play well-paying gigs as a Drexel impersonator called The Identical. Ryan takes the offer and tours the country with a montage of autograph signing, playing and house-buying assuring us of his success. Ryan’s manager even throws two stacks of money up in the air in dramatic fashion because it’s what you do in a montage.

Man throwing money in air during montage in The Identical

But by 1972, Ryan grows tired of all of this and wants to play his own songs. This leads to a scene where Ryan and his dad talk about what he really wants, which leads to a scene where Ryan and his manager discuss the same thing. The negative manager tells him he hired him as Ryan Wade “The Identical”, not Ryan Wade the musician.

At one point during this discussion, the manager tells Ryan that there’s only one Elvis, one Beatles and one Drexel Hemsley. Now, I was under the impression that Elvis doesn’t exist in this movie’s universe, but he does? We never hear anything about him or the Beatles; nobody ever plays or mentions their music. It’s all about The Dream. The Dream, The Dream, The Dream. And if Elvis and Drexel share the same musical style and look in this universe, then is Drexel really an Elvis impersonator? Or is Elvis the impersonator here? If Drexel is the impersonator, then that makes Ryan a successful impersonator of an even more successful Elvis impersonator. How does that work? I doubt two artists with practically the same exact look, voice and musical style would rise to fame in the same period, but this film just begs you to look at the real world in a unique hypothetical way, doesn’t it? I’ll trust that Howard Klausner thought this one through long and hard in the script.

Inevitably, Ryan backs out of his contract. Good for you, Ryan! Follow your dream as not “The Dream”!

Ryan records his own hit single in another montage, putting it on records of his own. He eventually gets a deal with City of Peace Records. Sounds Christian, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t made clear if it is. They offer him $25,000 (what is it with this number?) to sell his single “City Lights” so that The Dream can sing and play it. This is a no-go for Ryan, of course.

“It’s not about the money,” Ryan says to the disappointed executive. “It never was.” Tell me if his face doesn’t convince you of this.

Serious Ryan Wade in The Identical

Unfortunately, as Drexel enjoys his precious glass of whiskey in his private plane,

Drexel Hemsley in private plane drinking whiskey

it crashes and he dies. This sends a shockwave through their apparent psychic tether, as Ryan collapses inexplicably.

Ryan Wade collapsed on floor in The Identical

Following this, a beard indicates Ryan’s depression.

Ryan Wade depressed with beard growth in The Identical

At dinner with his family, bearded Ryan discovers his father plans to retire after 40 years of serving the Good Lord. It just dawned on me, where’s Ryan’s fucking kid? We saw it in the hospital way back, but it’s like they locked it in a basement and left it there to allow them to pursue Ryan’s career. Maybe they hired a nanny we never see in this film to take care of it, and maybe they locked her in the basement with it. Whatever.

Reese gets upset at Ryan for moping around so much about his long-distance BF Drexel, and he leaves. This leads to a heated argument where Ryan again insists he’ll never follow in his ole daddy’s footsteps. But guess what has to happen? Reese has a heart attack. Once he’s off to the hospital, Ryan looks in his father’s desk drawer, wherein he discovers a box labeled “Dexter Ryan Hemsley”. Inside of this is a letter from his real father, William.

William’s voice reads the letter as we get a black-and-white flashback to when William first saw the Wades. I really missed that stern expression.

Serious William Hemsley in The Identical

The letter beautifully summarizes the entire story that took place in the flashbacks, and it’s very heartbreaking. After that, Ryan gets a phone call from Louise telling him his father wants to see him in the hospital, but Ryan being the loving son he is tells her to calmly say “I’m glad he’s all right. Tell him I love him. Tell her I know now, and I understand.” Who’s “her”? Jenny? Well, anyway, he drives off to look up at the stars on the hood of his truck, as his father back at home discovers that Ryan discovered his past, and bawls a bit. Ray Liotta seems to cry a lot in this. He needs a hug.

In the next scene, Ryan orders whiskey at Darla’s Roadhouse and sniffs it like he did the beer, indicating he’s tragically never had a glass in his life.

An optimistic hippie dwarf (Danny Woodburn) walks up to Ryan,

Danny Woodburn in The Identical

after calling out “Ryan? Ryan Wade?” rather than mistaking him for Drexel and maybe thinking he faked his death. Kind of an insult when you look exactly like a really famous person, but you’re in such a shitty place that everybody knows you’re just his less successful carbon copy.

The dwarf is starstruck regardless and tells a really intriguing story about how he saw him perform. Ryan decides he doesn’t like the whiskey and wants to trade it in for a Dr. Pepper. What the fuck, man? Do you want to be like the boozy, two-word Drexel or not?

Anyway, back to the midget here. He tells Ryan to keep looking for what he wants, the same thing we’ve heard his father and his mother tell him at several points. This little stranger seems to drive him, though, and he shaves his beard.

He then rides his motorcycle to his biological parents’ house looking like a new man:

This is cool Ryan Wade in The Identical

Because of Drexel’s success, the home has been turned into a museum.

Hemsley home museum in The Identical

Ryan barges in and there’s not a soul around. He looks at a crib and then a purple car pulls up with a purple license plate that says “The Dream”, and in the back seat is an old man with some really awesome sunglasses.

Old man with sunglasses in purple car in The Identical

Cut to a flashback yet again where William cuts logs. Could…could this old sack of style be their dad?

In this flashback, we hear more heartbreaking talk between William and his wife about what a difficult decision it was to give up their kid, and through this we are treated to more mopey faces. I really wish I could give them some Lexapro or something. Jesus. Oh, sorry. Language.

Jenny tells us about how William grew frail and weak after the deaths of his wife and kid.

Wait, why is there a menorah in their house? The Hemsleys weren’t Jewish. What the Christ? Oh, sorry, I won’t use the Lord’s name in vain anymore.

Menorah next to man in museum in The Identical

Oh, it appears this menorah belonged to this Jewish woman, who lives here now, I guess.

Old woman museum curator in The Identical

Wait. This is a museum, and she’s obviously the curator. Why did she have the right to put a menorah there? Never mind.

She tells him they’re closing even though she’s just sitting there like a corpse and the doors aren’t locked. Was she just waiting for the day when Ryan would show up during closing hours?

She tells him about Dexter Ryan Hemsley when he asks about himself, and she directs him to the grave where he was supposedly buried. Oddly, she also doesn’t suspect he’s even a relative of Drexel’s. Maybe her eyesight’s just shitty, as her age would indicate.

At the gravesite, Ryan meets his real father there as he mourns his son. Without identifying himself, Ryan lets his dad do some talking and weeping. Ryan assures his dad he’s forgiven even though the old man refuses to believe it. Amazingly, he doesn’t recognize his own son’s voice.

Finally, he reveals himself to his real daddy and they embrace. It’s quite Godly.

After that, we never see the old dude again, and get to hear Ryan, er, Dexter, sing to his wife like he did when forcing her into going on that first date.

Man singing and playing guitar to woman on balcony in The Identical
“Remember that wonderful time when I made you love me?”

We of course have to have one final consolidating scene between Ryan and Reese, as Reese warmly says to him in his quivery old voice, “You are my son. And you are more than I ever dared pray for.” The tears. They’re dripping. All over my hands, my screen and my keyboard. I’m having a hard time typing right now. I need a minute. Okay, that’s better.

Next, we see Ryan at a candlelight vigil concert thing.

Candlelight vigil concert in The Identical

He sings his heart out as the replacement for his dead bro. It’s really charming and great to know that his career is still a glorified shadow of his brother’s.

And we find out Jenny’s preggers again. I hope they have enough moolah to pay for that thing.

Pregnant wife in The Identical

The screen freezes on him one last time as he reaches into the air, and Jenny closes out in narration with the beautiful line, “I guess it’s true. If he is in our dreams, then no one can stand against them.” Fade to credits, during which we see the cast behind the scenes in grainy ’60s-style footage, as an upbeat gospel-style song plays. The happiness is driving me to tears, it’s so amazing. Holy Jesus. Oh, holy shit, I did it again. Sorry, Lord.

Looking back on that final line, it’s kind of odd, because I don’t recall Ryan ever really keeping God in his dreams, if that is to whom Jenny was referring. He never really prays, and seems to spite the most religious man in the film for the most part, but I guess Jenny knew what we didn’t all along, sharing every aspect of his life and internal thoughts but this one key thing. I guess I was stupid to doubt his faith.

I absolutely loved this film. It really got me to see that even if you wind up not doing exactly what you want, it’s because God loves you and made you to be what he wants you to be. You will always wind up being what God intends for you to be, even if you don’t particularly want it, whether it’s a rockstar’s impersonator or a stressed-out preacher, a scandalous politician or a serial killer with a severed leg fetish; it’s all up to the Good Lord. I now understand that I have been wrong, and will continue to pursue life with God puppeteering me the whole way. I will now proceed to watch every Kirk Cameron movie, because clearly the man deserves the highest praise.

This movie gets a 5/5 horribly amazing stars from me. And if you really want to be converted like I was, you can get The Identical here.

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