Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain Review

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain Review
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PLOT: The life and times of Anthony Bourdain, from his humble origins in the kitchen, to his breakout as an author to his eventual worldwide fame as the host of Parts Unknown.

REVIEW: Not many people seem to know this, but before Anthony Bourdain ever became the bad boy chef Kitchen Confidential made famous, he’d already written two books. They were both kitchen-set mysteries that didn’t sell particularly well, but the fact that he wrote them at all perhaps makes his explosion in the wake of Kitchen Confidential easier to explain. After all, here was a tried-and-true storyteller, and his talent, mixed with his devilish good looks and tremendous charisma, made him a unique household name. It was always comforting to feel like no matter what happened, Bourdain was out there in the world, doing his thing and living well.

The truth proves to be more complicated in director Morgan Neville’s biographical documentary, Roadrunner. A Film About Anthony Bourdain. A warts-and-all portrait, which I assume Bourdain himself would demand, the film does a good job showing what made him such an inspiring figure for people while never shying away from his limitations.

Given that Bourdain spent the last twenty years on TV, there’s a whole wealth of footage for Neville to comb through, some of it uncomfortably candid. Bourdain seemed keen to document everything, and his voice guides us through the highs and lows of the last two decades. If the movie has any faults, Bourdain’s early years are left a bit of a mystery, with his first wife (of twenty years) refusing to take part. However, his second wife, Ottavia Busia, had a daughter, and virtually all of his friends and colleagues took part. You can tell they all loved him, even if they’ll admit that at times, he could be an “asshole.”

One of the key aspects of the film is Bourdain’s addictions, which they make the case never left him. He got off drugs very early on and never seemed to relapse, but he seemed to replace them with people to some extent, with his real addiction being to love. Busia’s around to tell their whirlwind love story, during which Bourdain, at last, seemed mostly happy, only for it to fall apart.

Much will no doubt be made of the film’s treatment of Asia Argento. A key figure in his later years, she isn’t interviewed, but she’s in the film a lot thanks to the footage they use, and the case is made that Bourdain, in many ways, seemed addicted to her. They go into some pretty meaty territory, not always flattering to Bourdain, with it noted that he fired long-time, loyal crew because they didn’t get along with Argento, who, in a telling outtake, interrupts a harrowing on-camera story to reset a shot, much to the interviewee’s disdain. They also get into Bourdain’s whole-hearted support of #MeToo, even if many of his colleagues suggest his understanding of the phenomenon lacked any nuance whatsoever, with him too quick to throw certain old friends under the bus.

It all adds up to an utterly absorbing doc, and even if I have fewer allusions about Bourdain’s perceived perfection now, I feel as though I know and relate to him a little better than before. And if a documentary call tell you some uncomfortable truths while still making you love its subject, well, in my option, that’s a job well done.

Source: JoBlo.com

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