Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain Review: An Intimate Look At This Complicated Character

Release date: July 16, 2021
Running time: 118 minutes
Director: Morgan Neville 
Producers: Morgan Neville, Caitrin Rogers

ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN, is a moving documentary by Academy Award-winning director, Morgan Neville. Anthony Bourdain inspired people through his books (including Kitchen Confidential), his work as a chef (at Les Halles in New York), and his television shows (including “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown”.) The film chronicles his life as a culinary icon and inveterate adventurer. It also shines a light on his mental health issues.

Anthony Bourdain was a culinary and travel icon and for those of us that know of him through his television shows (myself included), it was strange to see him as a younger man.  The film has some great footage of Bourdain throughout his life, but I was struck by seeing him in his rebellious youth.  He had the same light in his eyes that drew so many to him, and the same no holds barred, say what he wants sense of humor.  And much like Bourdain's show, Roadrunner is about the journey that the man takes.  Seeing him go from a young chef to a superstar was fascinating and hearing the insights from his friends and loved ones for what he was like during this was an interesting endeavor.  I especially liked hearing about how he started on television and how he wasn't comfortable at first.  We all associate him with the cool, calm demeanor on camera that he ended up showing, so it was helpful to hear that he wasn't always that way.  And in telling this journey, you get to follow Bourdain to some pretty amazing locales.  The documentary uses clips from the film and from the filming to highlight some of his most exciting (and disgusting) experiences, accompanied by some truly breathtaking footage and perfectly appropriate music.

And the film definitely spends a lot of time chronicling his personality and what drove him to travel so much.  But what is most valuable about this movie is that it also doesn't shy away from his mental health issues.  Some eulogies might have papered over it and only focused on the positive, but as we see in the film Bourdain would have hated that.  He was a flawed person, an insanely talented and brilliant person, but a flawed one.  And exploring this part of him is something that he probably would have encouraged and appreciated.  It was important to show someone who had everything, was traveling to fascinating places and having amazing life experiences, still have flaws and pain.  And this is a truly important part of the film, but it does also make it slow down towards the end.  The film follows his meteoric rise and then pumps the brakes when it looks into some of his later life issues.  Additionally, the movie does have some sections that just seem to wander, which might again be appropriate for a film about Bourdain but does lead to a certain aimless quality to it.  

Roadrunner chronicles the life of an influential chef and person, and much like Bourdain himself, shines a light on the good and the bad while creating a satisfying movie experience.  

Watch it.

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Roadrunner is in theaters on July 16, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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