What is it about Elvis?
Decades past his death, his magic remains. Is it the smoky eyes, the unique voice and style? Or is it the good guy, the gentle, deeply-spiritual soul that behind those blue, blue eyes?
I think it was and is the whole package. Elvis was American and his story was the story of much of America at that time, only writ large.
His family suffered during the depression, clawed their way out of deep poverty after World War II, and Elvis himself took off like a meteor, right along with his country, in the 50s. Elvis was energy and maleness, wrapped in basic decency and kindness. He was us, as we were then.
He must still be us on some level. Why else would his image and his story continue to captivate so long after his death?
The Identical is a bit like Elvis himself, in that it is based on good people making hard decisions in tough times. The Christian ethos of Elvis the man runs throughout the story in a deliberate but unselfconscious way.
The story uses an Elvis look-alike as its main character and is based — very loosely — on the fact that the real Elvis had a twin brother who died. I’ve read that Elvis felt the presence of this brother throughout his life.
In the movie, both twins survive, but one of them is given up for adoption, due to hard times. Both boys grow up loved and cared for by parents who adore them. The adopted child ends up experiencing something I’ve witnessed in adopted people I know: The call of a heritage that doesn’t quite fit the family they love and that cherishes and loves them.
We are ourselves from the moment of conception. This innate self is shaped by and reacts to the environment in which we are raised and live. But no matter the environment, this innate self will always win out at some level.
A person who has a deep and abiding talent for, say, music, will feel the call of that talent, no matter if he or she is raised by a family of people who are tone-deaf and without rhythm or not. This difference between the adopted and the family that adopts them is a fundamental expression of the innate person they are.
It has nothing to do with loving their parents or being loved by them. It does not change the fact that this is their family. But it does mean that adoptive parents will raise happier adopted children if they give space for the real person their child is to emerge in healthy ways.
The Identical is a tale of adoption, and the striving to be oneself in a sphere that doesn’t quite fit.
It is also a story of love and grace.
Because love has the power to make all things right between people. And grace from God is the transforming agent that lifts love up.
I had an opportunity to see a preview of the The Identical. I recommend the movie. It has a fine cast, topped by Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd. It demonstrates the maturing of Christian entertainment that is beginning to occur.
Ray Liotta puts in a beautiful performance as the adoptive father. This performance sharpens the movie’s dynamic and gives it power. He manages to create a character that is both a stern and a loving man; someone who is full of human weakness but who is also deeply and absolutely honorable and loving. His character is balanced by Ashley Judd’s performance as the gentle Southern mama.
It is no easy trick to give artistic dimension to good people. Any painter will tell you that the light is the hardest — and most important part — of the image.
Liotta pulls The Identical together and makes it tick because he achieves that.
The Identical will open in theaters this weekend. I’m taking my family to see it. I recommend you do the same.