The big mystery about conjoined twins, says a doctor who examines the
stricken protagonists of Twin Falls Idaho, is why the single egg stops
splitting. Maybe the bigger mystery is why the egg splits at all, why beings
splinter off to take their individual, isolated paths to loneliness and
mortality. That's the question that this eerie, uneven debut film by Mark and
Michael Polish (themselves identical twins -- their egg kept splitting) touches
on at its most troubling. Why would anyone want to go off on his own, anyway?
In the case of Blake (Mark Polish) and Francis (Michael Polish) Falls, who
share one suit, three legs, a variety of vital organs, and who knows what below
the waistline, one reason might be to get laid. Holed up in a dingy hotel room
on Manhattan's Idaho Avenue (the cutesy title is one of the film's lapses into
the gimmicky), they've decided to celebrate their 27th birthday with a cake
divided down the middle with different frosting, plus a prostitute. Neither
proves a good idea. The cake makes Francis, the weak sister of the pair, sick.
The prostitute, Penny (Michele Hicks, doing little with the heart-of-gold
cliché in an insipid performance), is at first repulsed by the polite
prodigy but then keeps coming back like, well, a bad Penny.
Penny, it seems, needs to "balance her karma," having herself abandoned a
defective child. She nurses the two back to health and stays up by their
bedside. Blake, whose heart is strong enough for both twins, takes a shine to
the sloe-eyed beauty. With Francis asleep on his shoulder, he coos to the
departing Penny, "See you when I'm single."
Such might have been the beginnings of a grotesque melodrama worthy of David
Lynch, or as Penny's friend Jay (Jon Gries) the "entertainment lawyer" sees it,
"the most famous divorce case of all time -- not about who gets the kids, but
who gets the kidneys!" But the Lynch film Twin Falls most resembles is
The Elephant Man in its dense atmosphere (the inky blue, high-contrast
cinematography and subtle synthesizer background are both nightmarish and
comforting), subdued pace, and ponderous gravity.
As one character complains, the twins whisper too much to each other -- it
might be part of their act, but it's still rude. The movie whispers a lot too,
and its somnolent gentleness both ingratiates and annoys. It's nudged along
mostly by minor characters, such as Miles (a rumpled, rueful Patrick Bauchau),
Penny's doctor and occasional conscience, who's always good for explaining some
of the film's more obvious symbolism. Or Jesus (ur-SNLer Garrett
Morris), an obvious symbol himself, the preacher neighbor who tries to save
Although susurrous and murky, Twin Falls has its share of tense moments
and confrontations. Empowered by Halloween, the one night, as Penny points out,
in which they can be seen as normal, Blake and Francis go trick-or-treating at
the apartment of their long-estranged mom Francine (a listless Lesley Anne
Warren). Dressed as a nun (the filmmakers again overplaying their hand),
Francine at first does not recognize them and compliments them on their
costume. Then, appalled, she realizes the truth and slams the door.
Another door opens as that closes, however. The twins accompany Penny to a
Halloween bash, one thing leads to another, and before you know it she's
painting Blake's toenails after the doomed Francis has nodded off. Outside of
Eyes Wide Shut, it's hard to imagine a less erotic love scene. But then
sex isn't the issue here as much as growing up and accepting the rapidly
shrinking expectations that entails.
In a sense, Twin Falls is about the longing to return to the womb, a
tone poem about the exhilaration and anguish of the long road from uterine
oneness to individuation and extinction. Not that Blake and Francis are far
removed from the fetal state, wrapped up as they are in each other's biology
and waiting, usually supine, for someone to tuck them in or ask whether they're
okay. In short, the ideal co-dependent relationship. Or perhaps a metaphor for
our universal fate -- a search for wholeness that ends at best with a few
missing parts and an illusion of freedom. For a minute before he sleeps and for
a minute after he awakes, Blake tells Penny, he knows what it means to be
alone. Despite its flaws and heavyhandedness, Twin Falls recaptures
those two minutes.