The Identical movie: Elvis-esque, secret past, conflicting dreams

By Rusty Wright

Ever have trouble getting people you love to embrace your life dreams?  You’ll likely identify with Ryan Wade in The Identical.

Music is in his soul.  He has the looks, voice and moves of Elvis, and drives audiences wild.  But his preacher father has different dreams for him, setting up a monumental collision.

What unfolds is a fun Rock ‘n’ Roll parable with an upbeat, inspiring, message about finding purpose, revealing secrets, and experiencing redemption.  Tunes to get you swaying and romantic odes touch your heart as they depict young love, discovering identity, and learning what really matters.

Conflicting dreams

This fictional story spans four decades from the 1930’s Great Depression to the 1970’s.  We see early Rock evolve as Ryan (Blake Rayne) seeks to find his way.  He loves to sing, but his father (Ray Liotta; Goodfellas, Field of Dreams) wants him in the ministry.  His mother (Ashley Judd; Divergent, High Crimes) quietly observes their interaction without choosing sides.

Ryan memorizes Bible verses as a child and attends Bible college as a young man.  But African-American R&B captivates his heart.  When Drexel Hemsley – the film’s Elvis-esque figure – tops the music charts, the mesmerized Ryan feels he knows what Drexel “The Dream” is thinking.  The two are dead ringers (Rayne plays both parts); Ryan insists to inquirers they’re not related.

Secret past

But we know they are, identical twins separated at birth.  Their impoverished parents, amid mutual anguish, invited the Wades – childless after multiple miscarriages – to adopt one boy.  Pledged to secrecy, the Wades raised Ryan as their own.

Ryan pursues a music career – eventually as “The Identical,” a Drexel Hemsley impersonator – triggering painful family explosions.  His mom accepts reality first, advising Ryan, “The love of God seeks us in every situation and desires our good.  If He is in your dreams, nothing can stand against them.”

Ryan explains to his disappointed father:  “I’m just trying to be what He made me to be, and not something else.”  Biblical statements his dad had him memorize as a kid foreshadow his journey:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.  ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.'”

Ryan is ever the consummate gentleman in dating, marriage, and with adoring fans.  In the end, all this confusion and conflict comes to … well, I won’t spoil it for you.  But I’ll wrap with some fun facts, plus a personal reflection.

Fun facts; personal reflection

It’s not surprising that an Elvis-esque story includes twins and spiritual themes.  The real Elvis Presley’s twin brother, Jessie, was stillborn.  Elvis often experienced survivor guilt and a desire to know him.  Elvis’ only Grammy Award for a single came for his 1974 recording of “How Great Thou Art,” a famous hymn. The lyrics, which likely reflected his own spiritual roots, point to hope beyond human accomplishment.

I can identify with a son whose dreams conflict with those of his parents – which is probably the reason this film resonates with me.  After finding faith during university, I sought a career with a Christian nonprofit, much to my parents’ dismay.  My mother enlisted an attorney friend to try to convince me to attend law school.  But my heart was set on helping spread worldwide the faith that had transformed me.  Eventually, my folks accepted the inevitable.

Fifteen years later, my father told me he thought what I was doing was extremely worthwhile, a deeply validating affirmation.  “If He is in your dreams, nothing can stand against them,” counseled Ashley Judd’s character in the movie.  She was right.  Opens September 5  Theaters  Resources

Rated PG (USA) for “thematic material and smoking”

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents.  He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.

Copyright © 2014 Rusty Wright

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Editors: Note pictures below.  Click on image to access image file.  More images – and higher resolution versions of these images – are here, here, and here.


Blake Rayne plays Ryan Wade and Drexel Hemsley in "The Identical"

Blake Rayne plays Ryan Wade and Drexel Hemsley in “The Identical”












Ashley Judd as Ryan’s mother Louise Wade

Ashley Judd as Ryan’s mother Louise Wade













Blake Rayne, Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta on the set

Blake Rayne, Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta on the set











Ryan (Blake Rayne) and Jenny (Erin Cottrell) on their first date

Ryan (Blake Rayne) and Jenny (Erin Cottrell) on their first date












"The Identical" movie poster

“The Identical” movie poster