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?