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'Twin Falls': Explorations of Intimacy

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 27, 1999

  Movie Critic


'Twin Falls Idaho'
Michele Hicks with Mark and Michael Polish in the offbeat but restrained "Twin Falls Idaho." (Sony Pictures Classics)

Director:
Michael Polish
Cast:
Michael Polish;
Mark Polish;
Michele Hicks;
Jon Gries;
Patrick Bauchau;
Garrett Morris
Running Time:
1 hour, 45 minutes
R
Profanity
"Twin Falls Idaho" is a love triangle like no other. Still, this entrancing, uncommonly compassionate film – a haunting fantasy about conjoined brothers – explores aspects of togetherness that all of us confront and, therefore, are sure to understand.

Mark and Michael Polish, the identical twins who wrote, directed and star in this offbeat film, never treat heroes Blake (Mark) and Francis (Michael) Falls like freaks. The characters are quite handsome, fashionably tailored and impeccably groomed. This is not easy because getting dressed – indeed, everything they do – requires intricate coordination.

Each controls one arm, but over the years they've choreographed their daily chores with graceful precision, and they communicate personal needs to each other by whispering. They're not to be pitied for their physical differences, but embraced for their individuality under the most claustrophobic circumstances.

We enter their private, deeply shadowed world through Penny (captivating newcomer Michele Hicks), a gorgeous prostitute they've hired to celebrate their 25th birthday. Though Penny is initially too horrified to get down to business, she befriends the brothers and changes the dynamics of their carefully balanced interaction.

Francis, the weaker of the two, is very ill. He becomes jealous and threatened when it becomes clear that Blake, whose heart literally beats for the both of them, has fallen in love with Penny. It is obvious that she makes Blake wonder about intimacy between a man and a woman. "Maybe I'll call you when I'm single," Blake quips. Of course, that becomes unfortunately prophetic as Francis continues to fade.

There is no guarantee that either could survive without the other. Blake might make it physically, but he suspects that like an elderly widow who follows her husband to the grave, he may not wish to survive a loss of such unfathomable dimensions. Then again, he may not be able to forgive himself for feeling free, as he has always been in his dreams.

Penny reconnects with humankind by accepting the brothers, something she has been unable to do with her own disabled child, whom she has disowned and refuses to see. The filmmakers make no attempt to show concrete evidence that that relationship changes, preferring to leave the next chapter to the audience's imagination. A doctor warns Penny not to expect happy endings, but she prefers Francis's way of looking at what life brings: The story goes on, and if it's sad today, that might change tomorrow.

"Twin Falls Idaho" has the bruised beauty of twilight, an hour that gives the most ordinary city streets an aura of mystery. M. David Mullen's cinematography is distinctive without making a show of itself – in keeping with the quiet eloquence of the Polish brothers' performances and the story's poignant spell.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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