Vague Visages’ Meet Me in the Bathroom review contains minor spoilers. The 2022 documentary features Karen O, Julian Casablancas and Paul Banks. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
A surprisingly reductive documentary, Meet Me in the Bathroom offers little insight into the artistry that sparked New York City’s post-9/11 rock revival. A total of five people received directorial credit for the adaptation of Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 book, which perhaps explains why the production as a whole feels structurally scattered. Rather than immersing viewers into the beautiful chaos of the “anti-folk” scene surrounding the East Village’s SideWalk Cafe, the filmmakers position the audience from a figurative rooftop, where one can see the action play out but not entirely understand the depth of the main players’ musical motivations.
Meet Me in the Bathroom chronicles the rise of bands such as The Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and LCD Soundsystem. The doc kicks off with a strong opening segment in which the filmmakers establish the epicenter of the focal movement while explaining how the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O crossed paths with The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, along with Adam Green and Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches. Within the first 15 minutes, however, Meet Me in the Bathroom backs away from edgy anecdotes without exploring the bigger picture; an obvious storytelling flaw that continues with each subsequent chapter.
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Audiences learn about Casablancas’ performance anxiety and famous father in Meet Me in the Bathroom but receive little information about the vocalist’s relationship with his bandmates. Similarly, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Paul Banks of Interpol come and go through underwhelming archival clips. Meet Me in the Bathroom is a LOUD documentary, but one that unfortunately lacks directorial style and narrative cohesion. The filmmakers also recycle bar hang-out clips from The Strokes’ “Someday” music video — a cheap gimmick that will immediately be red-flagged by those in the know.
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Even at 105 minutes in duration, Meet Me in the Bathroom simply feels too thin and disjointed. Bands like TV on the Radio and The Rapture receive a brief spotlight, and there’s also a disturbing tale about Ryan Adams fueling the drug habit of The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr., yet there’s so much extra stuff that feels chopped in without any structural consideration. Incidentally, the attempt to capture a scene feels disappointing.
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Meet Me in the Bathroom’s best moments feature the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O. She speaks eloquently about the scene’s “ravenous fanaticism” while making slightly cryptic remarks about her role as a female “pioneer.” The filmmakers excel with their Karen O segment, which could potentially inspire a stand-alone documentary. Meet Me in the Bathroom provides just enough details to satisfy audiences with only a surface-level understanding of the basics.
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Meet Me in the Bathroom succeeds when viewed as a celebratory snapshot of the Big Apple’s pre-9/11 rock youth. Still, the overall approach feels off and somewhat uninspired. There are plenty of second-half sound bites that would’ve worked well as first-act tone-setters, and the filmmakers repeatedly use montages to create energy that the music itself should provide. Less Sinatra and more rock stories, please.
Meet Me in the Bathroom opens November 4 at the IFC Center in New York and the Los Feliz Theatre in Los Angeles.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.
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