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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Roadrunner A Film About Anthony Bourdain: Review

Roadrunner Synopsis: A documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel.

Amongst a busy ensemble of formal TV personas, Anthony Bourdain proudly stood above the crowd. His sharp, fun-loving perspective embraced a multitude of unique cultures with genuine affection. Few celebrities were able to exhibit such whimsy while maintaining a transparent edge, always balancing the joys of the world alongside its inner pit of despair. For Bourdain, it was never just about the food or the breathtaking vistas. The megastar understood the significance of sincerely reflecting a vast worldview, utilizing his program as a vibrant prism for a world that often exists outside our reach.

It’s been three years since the star’s shocking death, but Bourdain’s bold legacy still carries on. In Oscar-winner Morgan Neville’s latest doc Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, the documentarian takes an intimate look at Bourdain’s unique zest for life and travel. Like the personality himself, Neville’s feature radiates with a flurry of potent emotions and thoughtful insights.

Whether you’re a longtime fan or a novice to Bourdain’s acerbic charms, Roadrunner features the star’s infectious allure in full force. Much of the highlights here come from the late chef’s archived footage, which delicately captures his meteoric rise to fame from his humble cooking days. Bourdain’s unwavering passion and thoughtful intellect always make him a dynamic presence to follow, with his playfully incorporated narration guiding audiences along akin to how he would on his TV programs.

Despite his passing, Neville ensures that Bourdain is the life force of the documentary. The director aptly reflects his star’s wandering persona, finding a loose yet cohesive form for his lively story to take place. Neville’s command of the film always feels remarkably assured. Unlike documentaries that flatly convey stories through expert interviews, Neville retains Bourdain’s free-spirited energy through his dynamic composition and clear thesis. Audiences will leave Roadrunner with a genuine sense of his dynamic persona. He was a man with overwhelming passion and love, so much so that the world’s inherent brokenness became overbearing to endure.

Neville’s feature impresses where it matters most, but his film does lose some of its impact in the third act. Neville inserts his desires to make a feature that stands above the salacious headlines that often defined Bourdain’s passing. However, the third act gets a bit too caught up in the tabloid-fodder drama despite Neville’s attempts at diplomatic tactfulness. It only works to distract from the genuine tribute that the first two acts established, although the finale frames did win me back with their open-hearted sincerity.

Every frame of Roadrunner is crafted with infectious adoration for its central subject. Neville’s assured direction allows audiences to experience Bourdain’s lovable eccentricities in an intimate and oftentimes moving light.


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