A sad, poignant, and risky doc about the culinary romantic.
Director Morgan Neville is best known for his documentaries “20 Feet from Stardom” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” and now he has another feature on his plate, and I use the term loosely. It’s called “Roadrunner,” and it focuses not on the Looney Tunes character, but actually a chef named Anthony Bourdain. Born in 1956 and died in 2018, he’s had various experiences when he worked his way to the top as a chef.
This is, hands down, one of the year’s most inspiring documentaries about one of the most inspiring celebrities. Rich in culture and culinary arts, it’s enough to feed the mind with what went on in Anthony Bourdain’s life. For the remainder of this review, let’s call him Tony as a pal.
The doc first tells us about his memoir “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly,” which reveals about what goes down in the kitchens he ran and worked for.
As a child, the only place he’s traveled to was France, because he had relatives down there. And as an adult, the only places he’s traveled to were in his own mind-based on books and movies. He’s never traveled in real life, which is why he went on a 6-week trek in Japan, Vietnam, and Bangkok with TV producers Chris Collins and Lydia Tenaglia. They examined Tony as a shy, pain-in-the-ass, but he was able to see things in his own perspective. He felt like he was reborn.
The reason for his travels is also because of his new TV show for the Travel Channel, and simultaneously, he was writing his own story and seeing things he’s never seen before. Every episode was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him. Also a fan of “Apocalypse Now,” he uses that classic to see the Congo in the most unique ways. Now, he’s become a world traveler-one who seeks out culinary ideas and inspiration.
But even Tony had a conscience. He knew people in third world countries were starving and he knew he had a family to love and support. He’s seen the world in their darkest times with kidnappings and disasters, but he was also able to stop his heroin addict cold turkey. His recoveries and experiences have made him a better person.
The final half hour of “Roadrunner” is an emotional tearjerker, as it discusses about the stress and sadness in his life, which lead to his suicide. Leave it to Neville to interview his family and collaborators, and allow them to share their perspectives on Tony.
Not everything is easy to comprehend, but you’re still able to see the culinary romantic’s world of how he entered fame, how he acknowledged the world he lived in, and how he felt depressed. It’s a complicated life that tries to pack the joy and serenity along the way.
In various parts, I consider the film risky for allowing the interviewees to curse (after all, “Roadrunner” is rated R), funny with some gags sneaking in, and quite sad when we see what one thing leads to another. The conclusion left me in tears, because in his own ways, Anthony Bourdain was a beautiful person. This doc is a wake-up call-not about food, but really about life.