“ IDENTICAL” = 7
A good movie for Elvis fans, particularly those who are interested in his early life. It’s also a well-crafted melodrama which will tear at the heartstrings of those who were adopted and never permitted to know their birth parents, or of parents who gave their babies to adoption to never see them again.
While the movie is not about Elvis Presley per se, it is a parody of Elvis’ life with renamed characters and a storyline that drifts far from truth. In fact, Elvis Presley did have a twin brother who died at birth. This film takes the liberty of fictionalizing the story to suggest that his twin was given up for adoption by destitute parents to a preacher and his wife (Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd) during the depression years. The transfer was made a secret, thus the real parents had to feign a death of the one child with a fake burial to account for its departure.
Both boys grow up in different worlds knowing nothing of their natural sibling; one becoming a mega star in the beginnings of the Rock and Roll era, while the other brother – despite his obvious natural musical talent – is directed unwillingly into the clergy by a fanatical father.
Though some of the ending will be obvious, the viewer will remain glued to their seats waiting to see how the story plays out. I have known a number of people who have had serious issues with truths being withheld about their biological parents, myself included. Such folks who relate may find this an emotional experience. The music is good and the voice of Elvis is near authentic.
It was a fresh look at Ray Liotta playing a serious dramatic role other than a gangster or tough guy. The story spans some forty years in which Liotta gives us a credible acting performance. Ashley Judd, the adoptive mother, is perfect in her character as the loving, doting mom/preacher’s wife. The roles of Ryan Wade/Drexel Hemsley is skillfully play by Hollywood rookie, Blake Rayne, who was obviously chosen for his clear resemblance to Elvis, not to mention his vocals. Blake Rayne won his first Elvis impersonation contest in 1998.
Note: This is one of the few movies in today’s Hollywood exports that is devoid of vulgar language, sex, flying bullets and crashing cars. Rated PG.
It won’t win the Oscar. But it’s an entertaining movie for Elvis buffs and a compelling story about birth rights for adoptees and adopters.
Worth 7 out of 10.