Twin Falls Idaho

Nashville Scene

DIRECTED BY: Michael Polish

REVIEWED: 10-04-99

From the moment we see them, we have questions. Twins are always striking, but when the two are joined at the side--two men with only two arms between them, and three legs--we immediately want to know more about how they make it through a day. Do they have jobs? How do they handle their bodily functions? And then a woman speaks up and chastises us. "Maybe it's not meant to be figured out," she says. "They're not a puzzle."

The woman is Penny, an aspiring model turned prostitute played by Michele Hicks in the film Twin Falls Idaho. The filmmaking team of Mark and Michael Polish plays the conjoined twins, Blake and Francis Falls, who have hired Penny as a birthday treat. When Francis, the weaker twin, gets sick, Penny's initial revulsion toward the pair turns to curiosity and then to compassion as she develops a romantic attachment to Blake.

Twin Falls Idaho is the Polish brothers' first film, and it has some of the raw, grating edges of a low-budget debut. The pace is somnambulant, which may be meant to cover for the frail, small-voiced performances given by all the principles. Also, much of the imagery and symbolism in the film is thuddingly blatant--two-dollar bills and chopsticks pulled apart are meant to cue the audience to the Falls' inherent value as a matched set.

But as much as we may be impatient for the characters to speak up and tell us more about themselves, we're all the more intrigued by the mystery surrounding the Falls' appearance in Penny's city (which seems to be New York), and what secrets they may be telling when they whisper to each other. The Polish brothers play up the squalor of their characters' fleabag hotel to underscore that even in a landscape of freaks, the Falls are marked as a spectacle--an idea that is further developed in the film's magnificent centerpiece. At a Halloween party where the duo's condition could be mistaken for one fabulous costume, Blake and Francis are still cautious, stuck to each other, and out of place. Even when the main plot underwhelms us, Twin Falls Idaho is still curiously insinuating, as we scrutinize this one body for two men and try to understand why they don't make even the simplest effort to fit in.

That's the puzzle again--the one we're not supposed to want to figure out. But though we may not be able to answer the questions surrounding the Falls' existence, we can guess why a set of real-life, non-conjoined twins might want to tell their story. It's a daring experiment--the Polish brothers examining the meaning and limits of their own fraternal relationship, and asking the audience to consider the human connections that sustain us. That's why, even for us non-twins, the film surprises us with an inescapably haunting question: How can you live your entire life with someone at your hip and still be lonely?

--Noel Murray

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