Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is the tale of a weary world traveller, rebellious culinary icon Anthony Bourdain, who made it his life’s mission to reveal how food is a great equalizer of the human experience, one that can educate us, nurture us, and fulfill us. This story is about way more than how to make a great meal. It’s much more about how travelling, family, passion, compassion, and empathy in an uncaring or indifferent world can be food for the soul, especially when we connect with people with whom we’re sharing it.
The film was expertly helmed by Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville who was behind the documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom about the studio backup singers who get hired to make hit songs come alive for the world to hear, but never quite get their moment in the spotlight. This scrappy, underdog spirit is a great match for a simple story about a complicated man here on Roadrunner.
Roadrunner is much more of a reflective meditation on the fragility of the human condition, and the paramount importance of broadening your horizons through the awesome power of cultivating genuine human experiences. The documentary features tons of narration from Bourdain including an opening statement diving into the nature of how his story doesn’t have a happy ending, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of fun and adventure along the way.
The film contains touching interviews with two of Bourdain’s ex-wives who speak about their lives at home, along with rock star chefs and even a real rock star like Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. Homme shares his intimate connection with Bourdain because they were both dads with young children who spent most of their lives on the road, and the way they would try to balance their seemingly amazing and challenging double lives.
Anthony Bourdain may have made people across the globe fall in love with his strong voice when it came to being a world-class raconteur with an incredibly distinctive voice. His voice on the page is so sharp that it revealed what a rock star rebel of the culinary world he was with his raw and revealing best-seller Kitchen Confidential. The tragedy of his life story is that even after all of his travels and experiences, he tragically never learned how to love himself.
Bourdain wears both masks of tragic sadness and triumphant joy while entertaining people around the world to show that there was much more to the man beyond what fans, colleagues, and family (by blood or by choice) on his life’s astounding journey than what we all simply saw onscreen. The film also examines the loneliness that plagued him his entire life and got the best of him in the end. The movie also deftly weaves together a mosaic of a man who never pulled any punches or reigned anything in no matter what he was doing.
The documentary creates a portrait of a soulful spirit in search of feeling genuine and authentic moments in life around the world that could never truly be made up. Bourdain always wanted to get as close to the real thing as possible, no matter the task while reaching out for something real to carry with him on his life’s journey as he moved forward on his endless quest into the horizons of the human experience from across the globe.
Some of his musings range from mundane to profound, but he was a firm believer in taking your pleasures where you can find them because there are truly no guarantees in life. So no matter how small your greatest experiences and memories may be, cherish those moments, because, in the end, those may be the greatest things some of us ever have.
Director: Morgan Neville
Studio: CNN Films, HBO Max
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: July 16, 2021 (United States)
Run Time: 118 minutes