Lisa Schwarzbaum
August 06, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Twin Falls Idaho

Current Status
In Season
Michele Hicks, Michael and Mark Polish, Mark Polish, Michael Polish

We gave it an A-

Michael and Mark Polish, the identical brothers who cowrote and star in Twin Falls Idaho, walk a dangerous tightrope of taste and verisimilitude from which more experienced filmmakers might tumble: They play conjoined twins whose reclusive routines are threatened and broadened by the appearance of a caring woman in their lives. Penny (model Michele Hicks, in an auspicious acting debut) comes to the dreary apartment of Blake and Francis Falls as a birthday-present call girl. Initially appalled, she gets to know the men as individuals and falls in love with Blake (Mark Polish), the physically stronger of the two. ”Maybe I’ll call you when I’m single,” Blake says, with a wisp of the mordant humor that keeps the film safe from gummy pathos.

There are countless opportunities to go terribly, tonally wrong with such a sensationalistic story. But Michael Polish, who directed this first feature, and his brother go extraordinarily right most of the time, confidently creating a quietly dazzling microcosm that’s always just this side of eerie, just that side of tragic, with room to explore aspects of attachment and separation at their most elemental. (Cinematographer M. David Mullen frames his arresting shots with the precision of Victorian portraiture.) Whispering to each other, sharing a birthday cake, or attending a Halloween party as ”normal” revelers where they watch a pair of ”Siamese twins” argue and easily unpin themselves, Blake and Francis are never less than magnificent in their individuality. Special-effects creator Gary J. Tunnicliffe, often employed by horror movies, makes the handsome twins so elegantly anti-horrific, it’s easy to see why Penny would fall for Blake’s singular charms. A-

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