The Identical
By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — Although they may be sociologically fascinating, in the cultural scheme of things, Elvis Presley impersonators are not widely deemed to occupy a particularly exalted position.

Yet no one can deny the enduring appeal of an entertainer who, close to 40 years after his death, still has not only legions of fans but hosts of followers devoted enough to settle for myriad attempts at imitation now that the real thing is no longer around . . . at least, not officially.

Moviegoers’ attitudes toward the former occupant of Graceland will likely shape their reactions to the reality-related drama “The Identical” (Freestyle). Director Dustin Marcellino’s film takes its premise from the historical fact that Elvis was a twin. Sadly, though, his brother Jesse was stillborn.

But what if it had been otherwise? In the fictional version of events pursued by screenwriter Howard Klausner’s script, the newborn brothers’ impoverished parents, William (Brian Geraghty) and Helen (Amanda Crew) Hemsley, are in desperate straits as a result of the Depression. So they make the traumatic decision to give one of their sons up for adoption.

They find suitable foster parents in circuit-riding revivalist preacher Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife Louise (Ashley Judd). The Wades are a happily married couple whose principal cross in life so far has been their childlessness.

For reasons that are not really made clear, however, the Hemsleys are at pains to conceal this arrangement from the world. Accordingly, they swear the Wades to secrecy and give out a cover story that one of their boys has died. They even hold a funeral for him.

Flash forward to the 1950s and Drexel (Blake Rayne), the lad the Hemsleys kept, is rocketing to musical stardom. His obscure but equally talented lookalike Ryan Wade (also Rayne), meanwhile, is being pressured by his father, now a settled pastor, to follow him into the ministry.

But, in a sort of evangelical riff on the old dilemma Al Jolson faced in “The Jazz Singer,” Ryan prefers belting out tunes to thumping the Scriptures. Eventually, Ryan gets the opportunity to pursue his favoured career by impersonating his long-lost counterpart under the moniker of the title. Defied Dad is, needless to say, disappointed.

Wholesome and faith-friendly, “The Identical” is a homespun piece of entertainment with a goodhearted but naive tone that will not be to all tastes. As for its suitable audience, a single vague reference to the connection between romantic passion and the arrival of babies may debar those who are still members of the stork club.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

The Last of Robin Hood
By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — It’s no wonder Errol Flynn called his autobiography “My Wicked, Wicked Ways.” The swashbuckling actor’s bad habits are showcased in “The Last of Robin Hood” (Samuel Goldwyn), a lurid account of the decline and fall of a once-beloved matinee idol.

Flynn, famous for leading roles in “Captain Blood” (1935), “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938), and “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939), was also notorious behind the scenes as a womanizer and an alcoholic.

In “The Last of Robin Hood,” writer-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland focus on the actor’s final two years before his death in 1959 at age 50.

It’s a sad but true story of rampant hedonism, sufficient to put anyone off considering a career in Hollywood.

We meet Flynn (portrayed with panache by Kevin Kline) in 1957. Professionally, he’s washed up, with choice film roles going to younger actors. But physically, he’s still dashing and debonair, constantly prowling the movie studios for nubile young starlets to seduce.

He lands one in Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), a chorus girl on a Warner Brothers film. Beverly dreams of stardom, groomed from childhood by her pushy mother Florence (Susan Sarandon).

“Don’t fade into the woodwork,” she advises her daughter, whom she provides with a faked birth certificate that says she’s 18 years old.

In reality, Beverly is 15. This doesn’t matter in the least to Flynn, who has been accused of statutory rape before (and was acquitted). Bewitched but not bothered or bewildered, Flynn and Beverly embark on a very public affair.

“I am the devil incarnate,” Flynn crows. “I live every day and night as if it were my last.”

Florence, initially appalled, is won over by Flynn’s charms and the potential for Beverly’s showbiz “career.” She dumps her morally aghast husband Herb (Patrick St. Esprit) and follows the lovebirds to New York City.

After an interlude in Cuba with Fidel Castro (don’t ask) and a trip to Canada, Flynn pops the question, and a wedding is planned. Fate intervenes, and a happy ending is not in store.

“The Last of Robin Hood” is a cautionary tale about narcissism and the perils of fame. Viewers would do better to suspend reality and instead enjoy one of Flynn’s classic film performances from Hollywood’s golden age.

The film contains a scene of rape, non-marital sexual activity, partial nudity, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual banter, and frequent profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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