Twin Falls Idaho

on July 30, 1999 by Ray Greene
   For about 10 minutes, "Twin Falls Idaho" is one of those "uh-oh" experiences. We meet Penny (Michele Hicks), an ennui-riddled young beauty with what might be called Winona Ryder Syndrome: the blank stare, first perfected in "Beetlejuice" and "Heathers," that indicates a world-weariness and cynicism impossible but nevertheless epidemic for movie actresses at or under the age of 18.
   Penny goes into a hotel. There's an elevator with a dwarfish operator. Weird ambient sounds assault her-crackling fluorescent lights, swatches of cruel, overheard laughter. Penny goes into an apartment-a young whore, meeting her latest "john." Turns out "he" is a "they": Siamese twins (Mark and Michael Polish). Horror rises in the back of Penny's throat--a stifled scream: "God no! Not another David Lynch knock-off!"
   And then "Twin Falls Idaho" almost miraculously rights itself, becoming a charming romantic fable about alienation, otherness and love. The Lynchian mannerisms vanish as Penny gets to know the mild-mannered Blake and Francis Fall, seeing their differences as well as their similarities. Ultimately, she realizes that Francis is dying, and that she and Blake have fallen in love.
   "Twin Falls Idaho" starts out looking like a freakshow and ends up becoming an accomplished contemporary fairy tale. Co-creators the Polish brothers earn high praise for their own quietly authoritative performances, and for vividly re-imagining their own experiences as real-life identical twins in a disciplined and metaphoric style. Michele Hicks establishes herself as an actress to watch, whose bright future may be clouded only by an at-times remarkable resemblance to Uma Thurman.
   A thinking person's date movie, "Twin Falls Idaho" richly deserves the wide mainstream audience it is almost surely destined to find.    Starring Mark Polish, Michael Polish and Michele Hicks. Directed by Michael Polish. Written by Mark Polish and Michael Polish. Produced by Rena Ronson, Steven Wolfe and Marshall Persinger. Drama. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Not yet rated. Running time: 105 min.
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