SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Based on Lizzy Goodman’s ode to 2000s indie rock, Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern’s Meet Me in the Bathroom chronicles the rise of New York’s budding rock scene in the shadow of a post-9/11 world. The documentary takes audiences back to a time of Shout NY Parties and when rock bands were “theoretically cool.” It’s an authentic archive of everything New York had to offer in the realm of rock n’ roll between 1999-2004. The film puts you on stage with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, in the studio with James Murphy, and grants you a glimpse into the minds of The Strokes in every frame.
The movie finds the pulse of New York in 1999 quickly. Setting up the major players, we are introduced to The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, The Moldy Peaches, and James Murphy – building the music scene in the minds of each viewer. The film navigates several narratives framing Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) as a reluctant star, James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) as a jaded but hopeful producer, and Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) as an aggressive introvert, finding her voice on stage. All of these stories collide, creating a punk-inspired mosaic of music in the 2000s – complete with rabid fans, life-changing performances, and an eventual exodus from the city these bands loved.
The documentary itself is wall-to-wall archived footage. This artistic choice gives the proceedings a heightened realism, putting you directly in the moment without the notion of hindsight. You feel the anxiety of Julian’s newfound fame, empathize with Karen O trying to cope with self-destruction, and experience the ecstasy of James Murphy discovering himself. The live footage is astounding and meticulously cut to display the unbridled intensity of each performance. Almost a spiritual sequel to the classic punk memoir Please Kill Me, Lovelace and Southern imbue their documentary with that same attitude and cool factor as the bands portrayed.
“…chronicles the rise of New York’s budding rock scene in the shadow of a post-9/11 world.”
Attempting to adapt a 600+ page book into an hour-forty-five-minute film is an uphill battle, not to mention the challenge of adapting a book about such a revered and beloved music scene. Of course, Meet Me in the Bathroom cannot give a complete synopsis of Goodman’s work. However, it hits all the major highlights and provides plenty of context to what made the Big Apple the epicenter of countless great bands. It also looks at how a city mourned a skyline without the twin towers, the insecurity of millennial stardom, and how the music industry forever changed in the wake of Napster. The movie is a Y2K time machine, hitting all the cultural touchstones and describing how music served as the perfect expression for those living in “the city that never sleeps.”
I felt intense pressure and excitement when the feature was announced, let alone getting ready to view it. Why? Because it’s based on my favorite book, about the bands I worshiped growing up, how could anything live up to those colossal expectations? To my surprise, it surpassed many of my wildest expectations. There are moments told at breakneck speed to fit everything in, and the film does wrap up a few arcs abruptly. Still, Meet Me in the Bathroom offers a phenomenal experience for any fan of the book and, most of all, of the now-infamous New York bands.
Every shot of The Strokes is mesmerizing; the insight into Interpol is thought-provoking; the James Murphy “Tomorrow Never Knows” sequence is better than anything I imagined. Meet Me in the Bathroom is a moving memory of each band and their legacy in a larger musical landscape. It captures the ethos of each artist and is an excellent visual companion to Lizzy Goodman’s oral history.
Meet Me in the Bathroom screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
"…a moving memory of each band and their legacy in a larger musical landscape."