The Identical is a piece of art. Simultaneously, it is one of the best and worst movies that I’ve ever seen. There are likely some no-budget indie films that are less proficiently made that never see the light of day, but those are mostly unwatchable. Similarly, there are some comedies that are so stupid and obnoxious that they are regularly labeled as ‘unlikable’ by most critics (think Movie 43, InAPPropriate comedy, or anything by Friedberg and Seltzer), but those are just aggravating and a waste of time. The Identical, however, is awful in the most charismatic way. It’s a “so bad that it’s good” movie, but not because it’s incompetently made (like Troll 2, The Room, or Birdemic: Shock and Terror). It’s a serious film that looks and sounds like it’s serious, but completely misses its mark. I doubt that I’ll be able to fully describe the brilliance of this film in a single review, but I’ll give it a shot. It truly is an experience.
The story starts with a depression-era family (you can tell that it’s the depression because it’s in black and white) finding out that they gave birth to twins, Drexler and Dexter Hemsley. Not able to afford raising both of them, they give one of them to a Reverend (Ray Liotta) who talks about his wife’s miscarriages in his sermons. Dexter is renamed Ryan Wade and grows up in a religious household while Drexler becomes an Elvis-like singer. Ryan, played by Blake Rayne, becomes a big fan of Drexler, also played by Blake Rayne, but doesn’t notice or seem to care that he looks exactly like him. Ryan becomes a Drexler Hemsley impersonator and has to deal with a lack of creative fulfillment and feeling like a disappointment to his father, who wanted him to become a pastor. There’s also a very strong religious sentiment behind the film. It never directly impacts the story, but is incredibly present in the dialogue.
Everything that exists in the story exists to move the plot forward, whether or not it actually makes sense. The plot seemed like a string of loosely connected points that were held together by some tenuous transitions. Character motivation came second. It’s as if the filmmakers thought “Okay, we need this to happen in the film, how can we manipulate the characters?” The characters are essentially props in the story.
Among the most notable of the continuity errors in the film is how old everyone looks. In one particular scene, Blake Rayne and Seth Green play high schoolers. The only problem is that both of them are 40 years old and look like it. Having older actors play high schoolers is pretty common, but they both looked middle-aged. Characters don’t seem to age throughout the film. Ray Liotta looks exactly the same when he receives the extra twin as he does 17 years later. Later on in the film they give him white hair, but he still looks like he’s the same age. This might seem like it’s not that big of a deal, but I assure you that when you’re trapped in the theatre it becomes the funniest thing ever. It’s a subtle aspect of the film, but it goes a long way in providing a ridiculous, yet serious atmosphere.
The main reason that the film is as wonderful as it is is because it takes itself very seriously. It’s also obvious that the filmmakers had a vision and stuck behind it. Most bad movies you see are so unwatchable because they’re cash-grabs that the filmmakers didn’t really care about, but you can tell that that’s not the case for The Identical. Ray Liotta was even an executive producer on the film, feeling a connection to the story because he too was adopted. Seth Green also wasn’t in it for quick cash. He says he joined the film because he connected with the theme of the struggle of having someone else tell you what you should do with your life. He even learned how to play the drums for the film. And Blake Rayne saw a lot of himself in the role, as he was an Elvis impersonator before he became an actor. The passion that went into making this movie is what makes it so enjoyable. The film isn’t funny because the filmmakers didn’t know how to operate a camera correctly or the actors gave awful performances. None of the technical aspects of the movie were great, but they weren’t laughably bad. The film is funny because the people involved cared about what they were doing, but it didn’t turn out as successfully as anticipated.
The Identical is only 107 minutes long, but it feels like it’s over 4 hours. And it’s perfect every single moment. It’s like watching a trainwreck, it’s awful, but you can’t seem to look away. I took some friends with me to see the film, and while they all agreed that it was the worst movie they’ve ever seen, none of them wanted to leave the theatre. I’m confident that seeing The Identical is some sort of rite of passage and I came out stronger for making it through. I encourage you all to see this movie and let it wash over you. Don’t turn it off. Don’t take a break. Just experience this movie. It’s exhausting, but so worth it. 1/10.