Twin Falls Idaho

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Twin Falls, Idaho, is not a particularly noteworthy city, but “Twin Falls Idaho” is an extraordinarily unusual, powerful film. It’s by far the best movie about Siamese twins who fall in love with a prostitute that I’ve ever seen.

Real-life twins Mark and Michael Polish (who are separate in real life) play Blake and Francis Falls, conjoined twins who are staying at a seedy hotel on New York City’s Idaho Avenue (have you pieced together the title yet?). They send for a prostitute — in New York, it’s more or less like ordering room service — who is a little freaked out at the sight of them. Penny (Michele Hicks) runs out on them, but then must return for her purse and to make a phone call — seems Penny is penniless and has no choice but to wait in the twins’ room for her phone call to be returned.

She starts to warm up to them, particularly to Blake (the one on our left, their right), who is caring for his ailing brother. While Francis sleeps, Blake and Penny talk. Eventually, they fall in love, leading to a division between the two brothers that almost threatens their supernaturally close relationship.

But this is not just a basic jealousy plot with the added twist of involving conjoined twins. It is a thousand things more than that. The Polish brothers are sweet and endearing as Blake and Francis, giving heart-breakingly honest performances throughout. Hicks’ two-dimensional portrayal of Penny can be overlooked because of the sheer power demonstrated by her fellow actors.

We also see a metaphor for all human relationships, especially marriage. Michael Polish, who directed the screenplay he and his brother wrote, said it’s “about cooperation, the give-and-take in a marriage. Some people are weaker, some people are stronger.”

In one beautiful scene, the weaker Francis says of the stronger Blake, “He is the reason my blood pumps and my heart beats. I’m alive because of Blake.” This is physically true in their case, but it is also emotionally true — and in that sense, it goes both ways.

The film, the first effort for the Polish brothers, is a little rough in spots. “Saturday Night Live” alum Garrett Morris makes an out-of-place cameo as a preacher, and a scene where Penny’s pimp tries to talk the boys into exploiting their situation for money sounds hackneyed and gaudy. Furthermore, the film should have ended with the fantastic dream-like sequence in which the twins are separated, rather than going on anticlimactically.

But there is so much to make up for these short-comings. Stuart Matthewman’s score is simple and lovely. The movie is shot in muted colors and with unusually crisp sound, suggesting a fairy tale, any-time-any-place kind of mood. The screenplay is simple and alternately funny and sad.

And I can’t say enough about the winning performances by the Polish brothers. A great film is one that conveys universal themes, even while dealing in particulars. Blake and Francis’ close relationship (literally and figuratively) is touching and beautiful, and it accurately portrays the closeness that can and should exist between husbands and wives, friends, brothers, whoever. It reminds us of how wonderful and sweet it is to have someone of whom we can say, “He (or she) is the reason my blood pumps and my heart beats.”

A- (; R.)

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