Movie Review: ‘Roadrunner’ Explores a Side of Anthony Bourdain You Haven’t Seen

Whether you know him for being a chef, renowned travel host or bestselling author, Anthony Bourdain left a big mark on the world. His sudden death in 2018 stunned many around the world. Three years and a month to the date of his death comes the documentary about his life, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.

Roadrunner dives in deep into Bourdain’s life on and off-camera with the ups and downs and demons he faced. Whether you were a fan of his or knew very little about him, this film offers a unique look into the life of a unique individual.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT:

The doc chronicles Bourdain’s life from the start of his career as a chef, all the way to his suicide. You get introduced to “Tony” as a chef in NYC. Bourdain immediately comes off as a charming chef enjoying living a simple life. Married to his longtime sweetheart and notably living paycheck to paycheck. Bourdain’s fortune turns when his book “Kitchen Confidential” becomes a New York Times bestselling hit.

We see Bourdain’s rise as from an awkward television travel host to one of its biggest stars. The film features interviews with some of the closest people to Bourdain, his colleagues, friends and his ex-wife Ottavia Bourdain, with whom he had his only child with.

OBSERVATIONS AND TAKEAWAYS:

I was really impressed with how esteemed documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville (Won’t You Be My Neighbor) pieced together a ton of archived footage of Bourdain and made it seem like Tony was narrating the film himself. It was stellar use of footage in telling a story.

Anthony Bourdain stars in Morgan Neville’s documentary, ROADRUNNER, a Focus Features release. Courtesy of Focus Features, in association with Zero Point Zero

I am aware that since the film’s release there has been some controversy about an IA being used to modulate Bourdain’s voice in some of the scenes. There will be a discussion about ethics when it comes to this situation and similar ones, but I’m just basing it on my experience as a viewer, and personally I enjoyed that, even if it was fabricated. It added to the intimacy of the story.

The footage really follows a spectacular life arch. Certainly footage was used from his television show and media appearances, but they also included things like his social posts. I also felt that the film didn’t shy away from asking some tough questions and wasn’t necessarily biased towards Bourdain.

The topics and questions that were were brought up to the interviewees were thought-provoking. The people that were brought on had some very close ties to Bourdain and they were very relevant, unlike in some docs when you have mainly critics or peers mainly talking about the subject. This felt very intimate.

WAS IT ENTERTAINING:

I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t overly familiar with Bourdain and his story. I learned a ton about the man through this film and the people who were closest to him. I found the story and life of Bourdain to be pretty compelling and eerily cinematic? High highs, low lows, heartbreak and excitement in-between. He seemed like a unique and complex individual. Not necessarily someone comfortable with being television host, yet being a focal point of a popular show. Some of the parallels are fascinating.

VERDICT:

You don’t need to know much about Bourdain to appreciate and immerse yourself in this doc. It has dramatic elements and emotion. I found myself to be most invested in the testimonial interviews with the people featured. You could see the pain they are still feeling from his death and how he impacted their lives, powerful stuff.

I tend to judge a movie how it hits me emotionally. That feeling when you leave the theater wondering and wake up the next day telling your friends and family all about it. This is what I felt with this doc. The two hours flew by. Bourdain admits to being a mediocre chef, but there is nothing mediocre about his story portrayed in Roadrunner.

GENRE: Documentary

RATING: R

RUNTIME: 1 hr 59 min

RELEASE DATE: ‘Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain’ releases in Theaters on July 16th

  • Look and Sound: 8/10
  • Entertainment: 8.5/10
  • Story/Plot: 9/10
  • Impression: 9.5/10
  • Creativity10/10

‘ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN’ Score: 90%

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