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(1999) (Michael Polish, Mark Polish) (R)

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Drama: A prostitute befriends two conjoined twins, one of whom is progressively getting more ill.
Penny (MICHELE HICKS) is a broke prostitute who's arrived at a seedy hotel to serve her next client. Unbeknownst to her, that john turns out to be a pair of conjoined twins, Blake (MARK POLISH) and Francis (MICHAEL POLISH) Falls, who are celebrating their birthday.

Joined side by side at the chest with a total of two arms and three legs, the twins are fully functional, being able to walk and even play the guitar with relative ease. Yet Francis' health is failing, and if not for Blake's strong heart, probably would not have made it far as he has. This is confirmed by Miles (PATRICK BAUCHAU) a doctor friend of Penny's who realizes Francis doesn't have long to live.

Although Penny is initially shocked at the sight of the Falls brothers, she quickly befriends them, taking them out on Halloween when they finally fit in with everyone else. She soon starts to fall for Blake, a fact that ends up introducing him and his brother to her seedy associate, Jay (JON GRIES), who wants to exploit the two for profit.

As Francis' health continues to decline and Blake desires but also dreads the day he may finally be separated from his brother, the two twins send time with Penny as well as their motel preacher neighbor, Jesus (GARRET MORRIS).

Unless they're drawn by the thought of seeing conjoined twins in a movie (and that doesn't really occur), it's not very likely.
For language.
  • MARK POLISH plays one half of the conjoined twins who falls for Penny, a prostitute he's hired, and tires of never being alone from his brother.
  • MICHAEL POLISH plays his twin who's terminally ill.
  • MICHELE HICKS plays the prostitute who befriends the two twins and uses strong profanity.


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    Back in the days before the FOX-TV network dragged prime-time TV down into the depths of low-end entertainment with their "reality" programming, one's only chance of seeing "unique" people was at fairs or carnivals in the "freak" shows. While some of the individuals on display at such gatherings were obviously real, some were apparently faked.

    For the curious then, the place to go -- which was considered the reliable authority -- was the Guinness Book of World Records. Beyond detailing the quickest animal and tallest building in the world, along with the record holder for holding their breath or eating hotdogs, my early '70s edition also featured the tallest, skinniest, oldest and every other "est" imaginable that could be applied to humankind.

    While every kid had their favorite statistic, accomplishment and/or photo, the one that probably mesmerized most was the story of Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous Siamese twins. Although the logistics of the two doing every together -- including fathering 10 and 12 kids respectively -- sailed over most of our heads, the sheer thought of never being apart certainly stuck with us.

    The same evidently held true for Mark and Michael Polish, who wrote, directed and star in "Twin Falls Idaho," the fictitious story of a pair of such twins. Identical, but not conjoined -- despite how they believably appear in the film -- the Polish brothers admit having had thoughts of being lucky not to have found themselves in the same state. Such imagined association obviously influenced how they tackled this material and they clearly give and play their characters with a great deal of compassion and understanding.

    Titled for the characters' birth condition, surname and the street address of their temporary home, and not for the actual city, this moody piece -- that's teaming with a thick, David Lynch style atmosphere and overall grittiness -- has its moments that showcase the filmmakers' talent and potential. Unfortunately, however, it isn't quite comprehensive enough to be considered a classic or much more than a good calling card for the two brothers' careers.

    When the film does work, though, such as the material involving a symbolic bit about one of the twins hearing "the train" coming -- a reference to their childhood imagined way of being separated from one another by lying on each side of a train track -- it digs deep into the viewer's emotional core. In addition, not only are the brothers' performances as conjoined twins completely convincing, but with Michael directing from a script he wrote with Mark, the two have successfully created a unique little universe where their characters exist.

    Yet, for most of the time it's a slow-moving affair where the near-creepy atmosphere and the twins' subdued and seemingly calculated reactions substitute for what should have been more of a compelling plot. While the sight and overall thought of the conjoined twins does hold one's interest for a while, the viewer will soon yearn for something more to keep things moving forward.

    Although the element of having one of the twins being terminally ill is intriguing and/or disturbing, the film should have focused more on their past. Despite that being touched upon near the end of the film, the horrors and possible joys of the twins' lives -- partially expressed in their faces and general demeanor -- are something the audience wants and needs to see.

    While the film's low budget obviously limited what the filmmakers could do, more information regarding what transpired before this story begins would have been beneficial. Whether through flashbacks or simple storytelling narratives, seeing or hearing about their past not only would have kept the film moving along and made it more interesting, but it also would have further endeared the characters to the audience.

    Instead of that, the Polish brothers seem more inclined to use some heavy-handed symbolism concerning the conjoined twins -- Penny gets a two-dollar bill as change, a Halloween couple is dressed as a detachable pair of Siamese twins, Penny breaks apart a pair of chopsticks, etc... -- that's more than a bit too obvious.

    The film also misses out on fully exploiting elements that are introduced, but are then either dropped or never completely developed. For instance, Penny's acquaintance shows up and immediately seizes upon the notion of exploiting the twins' unique condition for a profit. While both they and Penny are shocked at the man's callousness, he and his offer/threat then forever disappear, thus abandoning what could have been an interesting and complication inducing thread.

    The same holds true for the love affair that sprouts between Penny and Blake. While the ramifications of such an unavoidable "love triangle" are hinted at, they're never taken through the logical, subsequent steps, including that of further prodding Blake into wanting to be free of his brother. Although some brief comic-relief related humor touches on this -- Blake stating he'll call Penny when he's single -- the complications of such a triangle are never explored to one's curiosity-induced satisfaction.

    The point of such contentious observations is that the film simply needs more substance to fill in the gaps and carry the story beyond its initial premise. Mood and atmosphere will only get a film so far, and this one often feels like it's dragging a bit too much. It's almost as if the filmmakers were afraid to loosen up on the reins and see where the story might take them, whether that would turn out to be too sensationalistic or not.

    The central and often sensitively played performances, however, make up for much of those deficiencies. As the conjoined twins, the Polish brothers deliver some incredibly subdued but still quite mesmerizing performances. Beyond the sheer physical demands of their roles -- no computer effects were used to create the illusion -- the two feel right as their nuances and behavior appear completely credible.

    Model-turned actress Michele Hicks, who makes her feature debut, delivers a good performance as the broke and down on her luck hooker. While she easily could have played the character with the standard "heart of gold" characteristics, Hicks makes her compassionate and real, but in a gritty and seedy way. Supporting performances, from the likes of Garret Morris (TV's "Saturday Night Live") and Lesley Ann Warren ("Victor/Victoria"), are decent, but don't get enough screen time to make much more than a fleeting impression.

    Although the film won't play well to mainstream moviegoers due not only to its subject matter, but also the fact that its slow pace and lack of any substantial development will bore many of them, it does offer some solid and credible performances coupled with a compelling premise that's hard to ignore.

    Had the filmmakers allowed us deeper into the characters and their past, this might have been a far more moving and captivating film. As it stands, it has its moments and should pave the way for the filmmakers' future careers, but it could have been much better. We give "Twin Falls Idaho" a 6 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity is extreme due to at least 10 uses of the "f" word, while a few other profanities and colorful phrases also occur. One character is a prostitute and while we don't see any related activity, some sexually related dialogue is briefly present.

    Beyond that, some bad attitudes (gawking at or wanting to exploit the twins for profit), a drunk miscellaneous character, and the thematic issue of conjoined twins, the rest of the film is relatively void of any major objectionable content. As always, however, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content.

    Of special note for those concerned with onscreen, bright and repetitive flashes of light, a bit of that occurs (not full screen) in one scene early in the film.

  • A doctor, one of Penny's clients, comments on her not starting to smoke a pipe and she responds, "Yeah, me the crack whore."
  • Some people drink at a Halloween party (where Francis has a beer) and a drunk woman then comes up and talks to the twins.
  • When Penny asks the elevator operator what she's spelling in the hallway leading to the Falls' brothers' door, he says "Pee."
  • We see and hear Francis throwing up in the toilet (but don't see the vomit).
  • We briefly see the two twins sitting on the toilet, but don't see anything else.
  • Penny, a prostitute summoned by the twins, initially runs from their room (but does come back). Others who see them, however, do a lot of gawking.
  • Jay wants to exploit the twins to make money via a faked tabloid story about them.
  • The sight of the two conjoined twins (including a brief pulled up shirt shot) may be unsettling to some viewers.
  • The same holds true for a scene where the two fight, as well as the knowledge that one of them is deathly ill.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "F*ck me," "Holy sh*t," "You've got to be sh*tting me," "Freak(s), "Whore," "Bitch," "Shut up" and "Retard."
  • None.
  • A bit of creepy/ominous music plays at times during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 10 "f" words, 5 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals ("d*ck"), 1 ass and 3 uses of "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ," "Jesus" and "God Almighty" as exclamations.
  • Penny shows some cleavage in her low-cut top, as well as some upper thigh in her high-cut, slit skirt.
  • A female friend of Penny's asks about the Falls brothers, "Did they have two..." (referring to penises) and Penny says that she doesn't know, that she didn't see anything.
  • A male friend of Penny's who's dressed as a half man, half woman wants to know if the twins are both straight and then wants to take a nude photo of them (but this doesn't happen).
  • After Penny sees a sketch Francis made of her, she wonders if she has a big butt and the two twins then talk about her having a good one.
  • Penny's female friend once again indirectly asks Penny about the twins' genitalia and Penny says that she'll let her know the next morning. Blake later tells Penny that most people ask if he and Francis "share the same d*ck."
  • As Francis sleeps, Penny crawls on top of Blake and they passionately kiss.
  • Jay asks Penny (thinking she slept with the twins), "How was it? Did they double your pleasure?"
  • A miscellaneous man on the street smokes.
  • The two brothers occasionally don't get along (even fighting once), with Blake tiring of always having his brother around.
  • Penny doesn't want to hear about a son she gave up (who's evidently mentally challenged).
  • Penny visits the twins' biological mother who gave them up at birth and doesn't want to see them (although she eventually does).
  • A family member dies.
  • Conjoined or "Siamese Twins" and what leads to that condition.
  • How people react to others who are "different" than them.
  • Mad at Jay, Penny pushes him back against a wall.
  • The two twins fight each other, with each pushing the other's head with their lone hand. They eventually fall to the floor.

  • Reviewed August 13, 1999 / Posted August 27, 1999

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