Grace is a young professional on her way to a business meeting when she makes a detour to the bathroom. She has an urgent need to poop, but then someone else enters the public restroom.
Grace waits for the unseen person to leave so she can have her bowel movement in peace (and without anyone overhearing any potentially embarrassing noises.) But when Grace realizes the other person has to do the same thing, she enters into a “poop off” with her invisible adversary.
Written and directed by Rachel Ross, this comedy short takes bathroom humor to a whole new level, offering a playful, tongue-in-cheek take on the evergreen embarrassment over bodily functions, and the sometimes Herculean efforts to mask their presence.
The comedy announces its sense of cheekiness fun with a bright, upbeat look, with gleaming cinematography that emphasizes the cleanliness of the bathroom that Grace finds herself in. It’s a high irony that in such a lacquered world, an epic match of “poop off” is about to take place.
This writing has great fun with the small, minute steps leading up to the ad-hoc competition. Grace waits it out at first, hoping the other person will finish their business and go. The storytelling strategy here takes one seemingly everyday moment and elongates it, milking the small moments and choices and building them to almost epic proportions. Yet the film doesn’t flag, with brisk editing and directing that manages to make the confines of a bathroom stall surprisingly dynamic.
The real motor of the film, though, is a terrific performance by actor Kate McGill. The film has a relative paucity of spoken dialogue, making much of it a one-woman show as Grace reacts to her situation with increasing irritation and desperation. McGill’s expressiveness has the uncensored feeling of someone doing something private in a very private place. It makes it even funnier when someone else encroaches on her bubble, leading to a series of furtive yet frantic efforts to poop without making a peep.
As the title of a classic children’s book states, everybody poops. Despite the human universality, we must pretend that bodily functions don’t exist. Irreverent, sharp and mirthful, “Number Two” riffs on this societal contradiction, layering the pressures of femininity and competition and adding millennial hyper-connectivity to the mix. It ends with an awkward confrontation, where Grace has outlasted her temporary foe — only to realize that the competition never really ends. Don’t hate the player, hate the game, as they say, especially when it’s one we’ll be playing all our lives.