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Twin Falls Idaho

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Twin Falls Idaho

Starring: Mark Polish, Michael Polish
Director: Mark Polish
Rated: R
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: July 1999
Genres: Drama, Romance

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Some of this year's teen films concentrate on outsiders--the nerds, the geeks, the ostracized: "Election," "Jawbreakers," "Never Been Kissed," for example. Imagine if you will people who are so outside regular society that the only night of the year that they feel normal is Halloween! Two such folks are the focus of the Polish brothers' quirky and decidedly offbeat "Twin Falls Idaho," a love story with such originality that it fits into a niche all its own. "Twin Falls Idaho" is about romantic love of sorts, yes, and also about fraternal and maternal affection with all the dependency feelings such devotion generates. But the principal attachment is that formed between Siamese twins, Francis Falls (Michael Polish) and his brother Blake (Mark Polish), whose separation from birth was either not possible because of the limited medical technology at the time and because even if they could have been split, not only would one die but the survivor would have to make do with one leg, one arm, and perhaps one lung. Because this film is an archetype displaying sensitive, credible performances, "Twin Falls Idaho" ranks as a must- see for a specialized audience. Its glacial pace and lack of turbulent physical action limits the work commercially keeping it suitable for the right crowd (such as the Sundance audience that screened the Polish Brothers' drama in January).

Inspired by an actual case of the famous Siamese twins of the Nineteenth Century, Chang and Eng Bunker, the 27-year- old Polish brothers went to work on their idiosyncratic script, with Mark Polish at the helm and in the role of the stronger of the Siamese pair, Blake Falls, with Michael taking the guise of the sickly sibling, Francis. We get the impression that despite their being joined side-by-side over the length of the torso, sharing just two legs and two arms between them, they valued their bond and could not envisage the trauma of being separated. Yet because Francis is unhealthy (his heartbeat is weak and he is given to bouts of nausea and fatigue), he is the one who is dependent on his brother's strength. He realizes that his brother could survive a surgical procedure that could split them apart. Apparently Blake does not even begin to entertain such thoughts except at one dramatically emotional point in the story--particularly strong because of the low-key action keel that precedes the scene.

The story opens on two hookers, Sissy (Teresa Hill) and her friend Penny (Michele Hicks), the latter in a bad way financially and in such need of funds that she accepts an assignment to a seedy hotel on Idaho Street of an unnamed town. Horrified at first by noting that her customer is well connected, she gradually forms a bond with Blake, the stronger one, causing Blake's brother to become predictably jealous.

The film is best when Francis, Blake and Penny are interacting, becoming at times annoying when other characters almost arbitrarily come upon the scene. In one Fellini-esque episode, a spiritual man named Jesus (Garrett Morris) takes an interest in the pair, figuring that they epitomize family values: they can never be divorced. A seedy entertainment lawyer, Jay (Jon Gries), tries to exploit the two, coming on strong about how they can write their own soap opera (deciding, for example, to get a divorce from each other) to make big bucks from a public whose voracious demand for freaky-relationship shows is insatiable. Miles (Patrick Bauchau), a sympathetic doctor, comes off best of the supporting players as a man with a sincere interest in the well-being of the brothers and of his friend, Penny--who is inexplicably lonely and penniless.

The story's moral is straightforward. As Dr. Miles relates, a two-dollar bill is now worth double its face value. Torn in half, however, the bill would be worthless. The Polish brothers turn in an enchanting performance as they simulate Siamese twins without the use of special effects. We never wonder that in real life they are sibs who are so close to each other that they finish each other's sentences, though in the film they have an annoying habit of whispering to each other when they have company--a rude habit at best. Michele Hicks does quite well in her debut role as a trampy-looking but attractive hooker with a golden heart, though Lesley Ann Warren as the brothers' reluctant mom is the only performer who will be familiar to the average moviegoer. Warren's role is the least credible: that of the mother of the Siamese twins who turned them out for adoption at birth but who is turned around when the men are 27. An eerie and entirely effective soundtrack by Stuart Matthewman insures the movie's position as an intensely atmospheric work while Warren Alan Young's production design effective makes Penny's quarters look synthetically royal while the twins pine away in a sickly green hotel room reminiscent of the Coen Brothers' design in "Barton Fink." The movie about the twin Falls brothers takes place on Idaho Street, but can occur anywhere, though you're not likely to see such people in real life. Siamese twins are born only once in 50,000 to 80,000 twin births and often die a few years after their entry into the world.

Copyright 1999 Harvey Karten

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