Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

By Joanna Langfield

Has anyone ever been as charismatic as Anthony Bourdain? The working chef erudite, seemingly lover of life brought us along on his cultural and culinary travels with what we thought was a special intimacy. Turns out maybe we didn’t know him all that well. Because when the acclaimed TV host committed suicide, during filming, in the gorgeous French countryside after a dinner with friends, the world was shocked. Tony had it all, we thought. Why, why did he do this? Morgan Neville’s documentary tries to find out.

And yes, I cried through this whole thing. Kitchen Confidential, his truly great book about, well, kind of everything, but mostly about food and restaurants, taught me to never order fish on a Monday and made me a fascinated fan. Even at his happiest, there always seemed to be something very sad lurking, be it personal or world-wide empathic compassion. And when Tony would end an episode with a plaintive “why can’t the rest of the world be like this?”, it sure felt as if he was talking about more than some great street food, beer and a beautiful sunset.

With historical footage, as well as interviews with several of Bourdain’s closest friends and family, we look back at a life filled with frustration, great accomplishment, passion and brilliance. It’s especially chilling when, at the film’s beginning, Tony himself provides a voice over intro, talking about his own death and legacy, which he tosses off almost casually. Others don’t see it so simply. These were people who loved Tony. His very ups and very downs impacted their lives, too. So not only do they take us along the ride of his life, they share with us their own grief and theories as to why.

Roadrunner isn’t an easy film, but it shouldn’t be. It’s about a man who wasn’t easy. And a subject that is anything but.