I've had a fair share of roommates in my life, and I believe that anyone that has ever lived with someone else (even good friends or family) knows it can be difficult to do at times, especially when your roommate and yourself are completely different from one another. 2002's 2LDK (which is Japanese apartment lingo for two bedrooms with a combined living room, dining room and kitchen area, not the name of some hot new boy-band. I know, too bad.) takes a very close look at Nozomi and Rana (Eiko Koike and Maho Nonami), two roommates who are from opposite ends of the Earth when it comes to personality, upbringing and how they carry themselves socially.
Nozomi is a bit of a prissy little miss goody two shoes, while Rana is more of bad girl with a skankier edge to her. Both women have one thing in common, though, which is each of them are aspiring actresses, and the only reason they even live together in the first place is due to their agency putting them up for free in the same gorgeous apartment. While there is no mention as to how long they have lived together, it would seem as if it hasn't been very long, but it's been long enough for them to find those little annoyances with one another. Annoyances that can build up over time.
Early on it is learned that Nozomi and Rana are both vying for the same career changing part in a major movie, Yakuza Wives. Everything start off casually, with their conversation being somewhat cordial on the surface, but what each girl is thinking is done so with a hysterically rude voice over so the audience can hear just what their thoughts actually are. Almost as if they are having a mental and verbal conversation. Even with the faux kind exterior, they speak to each other with this passive-aggressive tone making it obvious that they both dislike one another, they just refrain from saying it aloud. At first.
As the two females interact with one another, their discontent slowly bubbles to the surface throughout the span of the evening. Little conflicts arise, jabs are thrown, jealously begins to cut deeper - especially with both hoping to land the same film role – and the pleasant filter quickly begins to dissipate. Eventually, things start to spiral out of control as one little thing like used shampoo without asking turns into all out chaos over the scant 70-minute runtime. In this short amount of time, these two girls do to one another what many a roommate would love to do to their respective space sharer (and then some), or to any one that you cannot stand but are forced to deal with on a regular basis. I'll keep the details to myself as to not ruin any of the fun.
Directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, 2LDK is a part of the Duel Project, in which producer Shinya Kawai challenged both Tsutsumi and director Ryuhei Kitamura (whose respective half of the project is titled Aragami) to see who can direct a better feature length film using only one set, minimal characters and all of it being done within a week’s time. The common theme of both films: A battle (or Duel) to the death, naturally.
Now, this is an idea that can breed creativity in the face of difficulty, forcing established directors to use their imaginations to overcome the extreme limitations. This is a challenge that must be risen to for egotistical as well as personal artistic reasons, and Tsutsumi certainly does so with 2LDK. This film is the definition of entertainment, a film that skewers human dynamics, specifically those of incredibly sensitive and spiteful women (the BEST kind!), and it is done in a way that it is just simply hysterical at times. Much of the interactions between Nozomi and Rana are funny because they are true. Well, true to a point, of course, as the film does go from 0-60 mph with 60 being somewhat over-the-top in true Japanese form. However, by that point in the movie, over-the-top is the only way to go.
Both actresses are fantastic, playing off each other perfectly, almost like a demented version of Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison. They are forced to physically face one another in a slew of ways, and both handle it quite well, but the bread and butter is the lead up to the eruption of anarchy. Watching these two go at it in the snarkiest of ways is simply enjoyable. No matter how well made the film is, especially considering the limitations, it is the actresses and how their character's interact with each other - as well as the quirky but darkly spot on sense of humor - that make 2LDK one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in a while.