Mark Polish, Michael Polish, Michele Hicks, Patrick Bauchau, Jon Gries, William
Katt, Lesley Ann Warren.
Written by Mark and Michael Polish.
Directed by Michael Polish.
Review by Carlo Cavagna.
The origin of the term "Siamese Twins" lies with the conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker, who were born in Siam in 1811, became famous, and settled in North Carolina, where they died together in 1874. During their 62 years of life, they learned to run and swim with perfect coordination, toured the world, became businessmen, and married, fathering a combined 21 children. For all intents and purposes, they lived a normal existence–or as normal as could be expected under circumstances in which solitude and privacy are not an option.
Blake and Francis Falls (Mark and Michael Polish, respectively), are similarly conjoined, but where Chang and Eng were united only by a strip of cartilage eight inches in circumference, Blake and Francis share some organs and have only two arms between them. For them, anything resembling a normal existence is impossible. Their closeness is the most extreme form of intimacy imaginable. In some ways, they are not really two people. Practically able to sense each other’s thoughts, they can hide nothing from one another. They have their own language of whispers and signals, and either twin can speak for both. For them, there is no difference between “we” and “I.” As one character remarks, theirs is a marriage without possibility of divorce.
We meet Blake and Francis with the arrival of Penny (Michele Hicks), a prostitute that they have hired as a birthday present to themselves, but the idea of a sexual liaison is quickly squelched. Frightened and confused, Penny initially flees, but returns to collect her purse, and for a variety of reasons finds herself stranded for a few hours in their hotel room. Penny soon overcomes her shock and becomes fascinated with the melancholy brothers. She even takes them to a Halloween party–the one time of the year when they can be normal, she says, because everybody assumes the twins are wearing an incredibly good costume.
Nothing much happens in Twin Falls Idaho, but the Polish Brothers take us on a journey just the same–a journey of discovery. Our curiosity to know more about the conjoined twins sustains the film’s momentum. Questions form unbidden in our minds as we learn about Blake and Francis through Penny’s equally curious eyes. How do they exist–how can they exist? What is it like never to be alone? How have they lived their lives up to that point?–a question not answered until the very end.
We soon find out that Blake and Francis Falls are on a journey of their own–a journey toward the unknown. For Francis, who cannot live without Blake’s much stronger heart pumping blood for the both of them, is very ill. And Penny’s growing affection for Blake introduces a new emotion into the twins’ relationship: jealousy. Will they go out of their world as they came into it, as Blake has promised Francis, or will Blake survive? And if he does, will he be a whole person or half a man?
The Polish Brothers, who had to wear an excruciatingly uncomfortable harness to play Blake and Francis, treat the twins with an uncommon sensitivity–almost as if they, who are identical twins themselves (duh!), actually know what it’s like. Newcomer Michele Hicks, who is sort of a dark-haired cross between Courtney Love and Bridget Fonda, is not a wonderful actress, but her natural performance (complete with an occasionally ditzy accent that's obviously her own) brings authenticity to her role. Movie hookers-with-hearts-of-gold, like those portrayed by Julia Roberts and Elisabeth Shue, seldom ring true, but Hicks pulls it off.
Poignant and absorbing, Twin Falls Idaho is everything you could ask for from a tiny independent film. It’s rare to see a film about something completely new, but a movie about conjoined twins definitely covers new ground. The film itself proceeds slowly, painting all the characters via small moments rather than through linear narrative. Twin Falls Idaho doesn’t have to lecture us about treating the brothers as freaks–as a lesser film might–because showing us the brothers as real people with real emotions is enough.
Review © October 1999 by AboutFilm.Com
and the author.
Images © 1999 by Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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