‘Roadrunner’ review: Anthony Bourdain doc a feast for the soul – National

In the eyes of many, celebrity chef, author, and traveler Anthony Bourdain had it all: the best job in the world, legions of enthusiastic fans, and a touch of badassery that only a handful of people possess. He was effortlessly cool and lived a dream life – we all thought.

The documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain takes a deep, intimate look at his rise to global fame and the unfortunate, abrupt turmoil of his final years. It is a look behind the scenes of what appears to be a “Hollywood” existence in which Bourdain lived at the same time and resisted with varying degrees of success.

From his relatively nondescript childhood to his later fame, Roadrunner offers candid interviews with friends, family, and colleagues interspersed with breathtaking footage of Bourdain’s travels. On the side, his voice tells his own life, an incredibly powerful element that helps increase the urgency of the documentary. (In a recent interview, director Morgan Neville revealed that Bourdain’s voice was modeled using AI in some cases – a disturbing revelation that has received a lot of backlash.)

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Much of the film features Bourdain gazing over amazing, limitless vistas, enjoying painfully beautiful sunsets, or mingling with locals in every city, and these clips are probably just a taste of what he’s experienced in his life. It’s a wonder it didn’t get too much for him; Roadrunner advises that this could be the case.

What do you mean by that?

Before Bourdain was Bourdain, say around 1999, when he wrote his life-changing New York essay, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” he was a gourmet chef in New York City for a decade. And because it didn’t fit into the traditional “shape” of a chef, it stood out from the crowd, eventually leading to hesitant fame.

Contrary to what you might think, Bourdain had never been anywhere before. Though he longed to travel and often dreamed of distant cities and remote villages, he was a New York boy and pretty much stayed within the confines of the state until his middle to late adulthood. When his career started, he did (both literally and figuratively), but as Roadrunner points out, the man we saw on TV shows like Parts Unknown wasn’t exactly the real Bourdain. It was a TV portrayal, a persona made for maximum impact – and being “that guy” took its toll.

While no one can know the exact inner workings of his mind, it is clear that Bourdain took in what happened around him in a very significant way. The documentary takes a fascinating look at the production of a No Reservations episode in Beirut, Lebanon during the 2006 war and captures the cook’s immense sensitivity and inner agony. What was the point of it all? Since then, he has said in interviews that this particular trip “changed his view of the world”.

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A later trip to Haiti gave him a similar glimpse into the big wide world, and in the document he says it “changed him fundamentally”. These staccato journeys to war-torn and impoverished nations seemed to tarnish his psyche.

Are there any secrets in the film?

No “secrets” per se, but a lot of personal information about Bourdain is revealed in the film that only the die-hard would know about. Never before has there been such a decomposition of his intimate life; Sometimes the documentary feels like an intrusion, like we’re talking behind the back of a dead person. Towards the end, the film increasingly deals with speculation and gossip as Bourdain showed less and less in front of the camera. His relationship with actor and #MeToo pioneer Asia Argento takes up a later part of the film, making Bourdain appear as a lovesick teenager longing for her love and attention.

Roadrunner seems to blame Bourdain’s worsening depression in later life on Argento, but then quickly undoes it with a stern quote from a friend who insists that only Bourdain could have made the decision to commit suicide.

For someone so in love with the dazzling depictions of life, Bourdain is almost pathetic, smaller, shrunken in the last chapter, words I never thought I’d describe. It’s heartbreakingly sad, a reminder that mental illness can overwhelm any of us at any time.

Does the film address his death?

His death is mentioned everywhere, mostly small comments here and there, but at the very end of the film we hear about his suicide from his closest friends and family. Probably the saddest part of the film, in the many vignettes the interviewees are still absolutely shaken by his death in 2018. In a strange way, they all seem to understand what happened to Bourdain and refer to the “very high heights and.” the very ugly “. Lows ”of his last years.

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They knew he had fallen into depression, but they never thought – despite his lifelong propensity for weird jokes and comments about being too “open” – that he would kill himself. As a friend so eloquently put it, Bourdain just had to stop running.

So what’s the bottom line?

Even if you don’t know anything about Bourdain, Roadrunner is a fascinating watch. Filled with breathtaking footage from places around the world, it’s an emotional documentary that will stay with you for days. Sometimes larger-than-life characters are not who you think they are, and under that camera-friendly facade hides a troubled, lost soul just looking for a home.

“Roadrunner” starts in cinemas on July 16, 2021. Please see your local listings for more information.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In an emergency, please call 911 for immediate assistance.

For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Learn more about how you can help someone in crisis.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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