Twin Falls Idaho
1999, R, 110 min. Directed by Michael Polish. Starring Mark Polish, Michael Polish, Michele Hicks, Lesley Ann Warren, Patrick Bauchau, Jon Gries, Garrett Morris, William Katt.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 3, 1999
In most romantic triangles, and certainly those of the Hollywood variety, it's all too easy to predetermine who will end up lounging across the chaise with whom in the closing reel. Boy meets girl, girl loves some other boy, boy eats girl – it's all so painfully obvious. Thank heaven, then, for this odd, wondrous debut from the Polish brothers, a pair of identical twins who have taken their lifelong fascination both with movies and conjoined twins and created a film that is at once emotionally charged and genuinely, disconcertingly surreal. Mark and Michael Polish play Blake and Francis Falls, identical in almost every physicality. They look the same, they speak in the same mellifluous, hushed tones (frequently whispering to each other), and they share the same clothes. Conjoined in the womb, though, they also share a number of internal organs and a set of three legs (a fourth undeveloped limb fills out the strange, middle trouser leg) and it's this inseparable, inescapable physical bond that has apparently kept them going in a world largely averse to their unique situation. Francis, though, is ill. The weaker of the pair, he is dependent on Blake's robust constitution and has become increasingly frail with flu-like symptoms. Separated, Blake could survive; Francis could not. Into this strange milieu arrives Penny, a prostitute who arrives at the twins' grimy Idaho St. walkup on their birthday. Nonplused by their state, she hurriedly exits, only to return again later with a surprise. As a love affair evolves between Blake and Penny (who is gothic, beaten down, a bit of a freak in her own right), the relationship between the brothers becomes predictably strained. It's what the Polish brothers don't do that makes the film what it is. While it may at first sound like the old Tales From the Crypt episode “My Brother's Keeper,” Twin Falls Idaho is all of a piece, original even when it seems you've seen this particular scene before. First and foremost, the Polish brothers' performances are masterworks of subtlety. As the Falls brothers, they communicate in a physical and verbal shorthand that's both spooky and oddly touching to witness. Tailored in oversized suits and ties that harken back to the 1930s and '40s, they appear as travelers from some distant time and place, just visiting for a while. Saturday Night Live alum Garrett Morris turns up as a neighboring preacher, and Patrick Bauchau plays a sage physician/john: Both characters add a cool luster to the proceedings, but it's the Polish brothers and Michelle Hicks' hooker with a heart of, well, not gold precisely, but some other semiprecious metal, that gives the film its wholly original wallop. Freaks it's not, nor is it as entirely David Lynchian as it may sound. Instead, Twin Falls, Idaho is a marvel of subdued, genuine filmmaking.