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Film Review: ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN (2021): A Touching and Captivating Documentary


Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain Review

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (2021) Film Review, a movie directed by Morgan Neville and starring Anthony Bourdain, Ottavia Bourdain, Asia Argento, David Chang, Helen M. Cho, David Choe, Morgan Fallon, Josh Homme, John Lurie, Alison Mosshart, and Eric Ripert.

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Anthony Bourdain was a passionate traveler who just so happened to be a great writer and talented chef. His book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly became a best seller and he ended up on television doing a travel show. Morgan Neville’s new documentary about his life, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, is simply mesmerizing right from the opening scenes. It captures the essence of a man who was filled with passion for life. Bourdain had seen a lot of the world and did so much with his career that his work may have overshadowed his relationship with his family. He was married twice and was the father of a girl. The movie shows all the pain, passion and despair of a man who struggled to make sense of it all.

In the early scenes in the film, a young Bourdain is struggling to make ends meet as a chef in New York City despite his tremendous talents. He is still with his high school sweetheart and he, luckily, gets his writing in to the hands of a woman who absolutely adores it and is able to get him a book deal. The publication of his book leads to more success as he eventually travels the world for a television show. In his travels, he sees a lot and does a lot. From eating part of the inside of a snake to making his dream come true of realizing his fondness for Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now on the Congo, Bourdain sees both the light and dark sides of life. He also sees how people in a poorer part of the world respond to their desperate need for food. There is a lot of depth in these scenes showing Bourdain’s passion and desire in life to find a happy medium.

Bourdain had a daughter with his second wife and, in a hilarious scene, he goes on the show Yo Gabba Gabba! further expanding his talents as a family man. Bourdain also barbecues and bonds with his friends and family when he gets a chance. But, his job consumes a lot of his time which leads him to have some inner demons.

When the film gets to Bourdain’s relationship with Asia Argento after he divorces his second wife, the movie starts to get very tricky. Bourdain changes a lot in these scenes as he becomes more spontaneous and less focused. The “Me Too” movement comes into play as Argento had said she was raped by Harvey Weinstein which leads Bourdain on a personal journey to make people aware. Yet, his love for Argento is challenged in many ways and her love for him is as well. The movie gets very deep here leading up to the film’s heart-wrenching conclusion.

Bourdain was a many of many talents and this documentary extraordinarily captures the essence of his soul. When he sees a therapist and tells her that he feels like hurting someone, we understand how he got to this point. We also understand he may have needed more help than anyone ever realized.

A film like this is very challenging to watch because we are presented only with the details given and we, as audience members, don’t really get the full picture. But, we get a lot. There are questions interviewers probably didn’t ask him in his later career that they should have. Bourdain became a lost soul but not before living a very full and interesting life.

This documentary conveys its emotions in quite an admirable way. It makes us question everything about why this man took his own life but also shows all the good that his life had in it. His friendships and relationships were always something this man tried to put 100% into. When he divorced his wives, it was only because of the challenges in his life and, like many people in similar situations, Bourdain changed as a person as his needs and responsibilities changed.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is not perfect. The recent AI voice controversy that has come about is legitimately disheartening but this film is very well made and emotionally relevant. When we question why this talented man took his own life, we examine our own souls and learn that certain things in life are beyond our control and may be discouraging but life is still worth fighting for.

Bourdain once told a friend he would make a bad father. It’s not certain he truly meant it but the fact that the friend turned out to prove Bourdain wrong makes us believe that anything in life is possible. Bourdain wasn’t perfect because he was human and that humanity is on full display in Neville’s film which I definitely recommend.

Rating: 8/10

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