Despite the filmmakers’ attempts to cast a wide net, Meet me in the bathroom might have worked better as a multi-part limited series on some streaming services. Half a decade of sprawling, interconnected music scenes can’t be adequately documented in less than two hours, so inevitably some bands get overlooked. A title card at the end of the film lists Liars and TV On The Radio among the main characters, but they’re only really introduced in passing as the directors illustrate the cultural migration from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I don’t even remember any of the Liars talking, though we do get footage of killer performances from a concert in a Brooklyn parking lot. Other artists included in the book are removed altogether, such as the National and the Walkmen – bands that arguably made better music than most of the stars of this film, but were more peripheral to the groundswell recounted here. , especially since the story drags around the time “The Rat” and Alligator entered the world. Ultimately, this film revolves around the Strokes, who sparked a movement in their town and struggled under the weight of the fervor that followed. Don’t forget who wrote the song that gave this project its name.
It’s easy to roll your eyes at these rich kids in their crumpled suits and ties, especially when they’re portrayed as the saviors who saved audiences from terribly uncool rock music. (A brief look at Julian Casablancas accepting an MTV award at the end of the film feels like a callback to early shots of Limp Bizkit and Blink-182 receiving similar honors, but the only rock band I’ve seen reach No. 1 at the time was Nickelback.) Anyone skeptical of the self-importance of New Yorkers will rightly scoff at reading Walt Whitman’s ode to Manhattan over a montage of New York luminaries, from Lou Reed to Debbie Harry via ODB. As a lifelong Midwesterner, I chafe at this kind of Big Apple self-adulation. It would be much more obnoxious, however, if the music wasn’t so good. We may wonder if these groups were as important in the grand scheme as the legend suggests, but if they were ever important to you, Meet me in the bathroom offers a spellbinding look at that moment – a portrait of people who, while hailed as incredibly cool, were inevitably human.
Meet me in the bathroom has its Los Angeles premiere tonight at the Fonda, followed by a New York premiere this Sunday, 10/30 at Webster Hall. It will screen regularly at the IFC Center in New York and the Los Feliz Theater in Los Angeles beginning on 4/11. A one-night-only national screening event is scheduled for 8/11. It will air on Showtime from 11/25.