Movie Review: Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain * A Personal, Honest Look Into The Life Of Anthony Bourdain
It’s not where you go. It’s what you leave behind…. Chef, writer, adventurer, and provocateur: Anthony Bourdain lived his life unabashedly. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at how an anonymous chef became a world-renowned cultural icon. From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?), this unflinching look at Bourdain reverberates with his presence, in his own voice and in the way he indelibly impacted the world around him. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain offers an incisive look into the life and times of an enigma who raced through life with ferocity, grit, and a truly remarkable nonchalant attitude. A tale of a man who continued to barrel through life like a steam locomotive, picking up emotional baggage, shattering relationships, and joking about darkness all along the way.” Benjamin P. adds, “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a personal, honest—albeit loving—look at and into the life of Anthony Bourdain and all the various detours it took. This documentary charts his journey from chef to writer to acclaimed TV host, as told by his closest friends, the people he worked with, and his family.” See their full reviews below.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain offers an incisive look into the life and times of an enigma who raced through life with ferocity, grit, and a truly remarkable nonchalant attitude. A tale of a man who continued to barrel through life like a steam locomotive, picking up emotional baggage, shattering relationships, and joking about darkness all along the way. A great story of one of the greatest raconteurs whose story ended too quickly. This is Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.
Renowned chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain seduced New Yorkers’ stomachs years before he enraptured audiences with shows like A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, and of course, the famous Parts Unknown. And even before his culinary career, Bourdain hit one of the lowest lows of his life, with a destructive heroin and cocaine addiction that he attributes to a visceral, angry response to the love and affection of his parents. Roadrunner largely summarizes Tony Bourdain’s adolescence, skipping to the publication of his bestselling memoir Kitchen Confidential which first launched him overnight into the show-biz. The film chronicles Bourdain and his crew’s adventures, getting caught up in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Beirut, eating exotic items in the far reaches of East Asia, and making deep and long-lasting friendships all along the way. Bourdain forsook his home life for these travels. The film also documents the later chapter of Anthony Bourdain’s life, wherein he was betrayed by love, struggled to cope with his emotions, his agoraphobia, and his growing sense of insecurity about fatherhood. In a heart wrenching sequence, the film documents Bourdain’s suicide and the responses of his loved ones to this event.
It’s an incredible film, a journalistic undertaking by award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville that won my heart. The magical voice of Bourdain guides the film. Scenes from his shows, archival footage, Bourdain’s Instagram stories, and interviews with his close circle of friends and family, including his second wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain and his friend Chef Eric Ripert, are tied together to tell an enchanting story that genuinely is not depressing or dark. To paraphrase Busia-Bourdain’s quote in the film, Anthony Bourdain was more than the acts he committed near the end of his 61 years of life, and much like him, Roadrunner brings much light into the viewers’ hearts. The editing and musical score, especially the careful inclusion of the title song from the 1970 film “Violent City,” about a man who takes revenge on his unfaithful lover, help move the story forward and provide a deeper meaning to an already superb film.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a reminder to all of us that we have someone we can reach out to, we have a reason to live, we have a reason to enjoy every moment of our lives, and we have a reason to be the best version of ourselves. Given Bourdain’s colorful personality, one wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is cursing throughout the film and mentions of suicide and taking drugs also pop up over the course of the 2-hour piece.
I give Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18, plus adults. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11, 2021. It is scheduled to be released on July 16, 2021, by Focus Features, after which it will air on CNN and HBO Max on an unspecified date.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
By Benjamin P., Kids First! Film Critic, age 15
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a personal, honest—albeit loving—look at and into the life of Anthony Bourdain and all the various detours it took. This documentary charts his journey from chef to writer to acclaimed TV host, as told by his closest friends, the people he worked with, and his family.
After an opening credits sequence that runs through the years leading up to Bourdain’s career as a chef, Roadrunner begins its sprint in 1999 after he’s secured a deal to write a book about his experiences in the restaurant world, Kitchen Confidential, the New York Times bestseller that would put Bourdain on the talk show circuit, and kickstart his ascent towards celebrity. In preparation for writing his second memoir, A Chef’s Tour, he was approached by TV producers who pitched an ongoing series in tandem with the upcoming book, thus forming a partnership that would spawn multiple shows, win several Emmys and begin Bourdain’s long tenure on television screens and secure his status as a world-famous traveler.
This film is a challenge on many levels. For starters, Bourdain’s suicide is still a recent event in the public eye, and, I’m certain, a fresh wound for those who knew him. It’s difficult to watch a feature-length story of someone’s whole life, knowing that it’s going to end so inevitably, suddenly, and sadly; however, Roadrunner succeeds by showing us Bourdain in his totality which balances the sadness of his inevitable end. And yet, audiences may find it unavoidable to wonder who he really was, along with his loved ones striving to answer the question: Who was Anthony Bourdain off-screen?
Roadrunner mirrors Bourdain’s own frequent departures from home and journeys to parts unknown, taking us back and forth from his television world and his home life with his daughter. We see a conversation between Bourdain and a friend, where they discuss the paradox of wanting to return home when they’re away, but immediately wanting to get back on the road when they get home. This tragic conversation gets right to the heart of the movie’s title, Roadrunner, and just how reflective it was of Bourdain’s own everyday life.
After a TV episode goes awry, Bourdain talks about his faltering belief in the power of the table at which we eat and share, yet Roadrunner becomes a testament to that power. Nearly every interview in the film is organized across a table, where deeply personal details and anecdotes from those who knew Bourdain are exchanged. Director Neville operates with a wealth of outtakes from his TV shows and all the excess footage of Bourdain’s 20 years on screen, but it’s these genuine moments with Bourdain’s tribe that cut the deepest.
I give Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18, plus adults, for mild language and strong themes throughout. Roadrunner lands in theaters on July 16, 2021.
Keywords: documentary, Morgan Neville, Adam Beckmann, Eileen Meyer, Cairin Rogers, Anthony Bourdain, ottavia Bourdain, David Chang, Helen M. Cho, Christopher Collins, Josh Homme, Allison Mosshart, Doug Quint, Eric Ripert, Lydia Tenaglia, Tom Vitale