The life of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was about so much more than just food, as affectionate documentary Roadrunner illustrates in interviews with those whose lives were touched by the curious, convivial rover.
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To fans, Anthony Bourdain was a figure of relentless inquisitiveness, deeply committed to experiencing all this world had to offer. He seemed such a positive force in the mediascape that many were left completely blindsided by his suicide in 2018. Roadrunner has little to say in resolving Bourdain’s tragic end, concerned instead with celebrating the way he lived – honest, adventurous and engaged.
Filmmaker Morgan Neville (Won't you Be My Neighbor?, Best of Enemies NZIFF 2015) concentrates this latest documentary on the period of Bourdain’s life most familiar to the public, charting his rise to television stardom. When Bourdain’s enjoyable tell-all about the inner workings of fancy restaurants, Kitchen Confidential, makes him an overnight success, he corrals newfound star power to become a travelling television personality with shows like A Cook’s Tour and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
At times the film does paint Bourdain as a frustratingly self-defeating character, but it isn’t as interested in ‘figuring out’ the charismatic celebrity as it is exemplifying the sort of frank and spontaneous tribute Bourdain himself might have created.
There is no shortage of interesting people who have come into Bourdain’s orbit, but the film wisely eschews star power to prioritise interviewees with real intimacy and insight. Roadrunner is a suitably colourful and energetic tribute to a life thoroughly lived. —Adrian Hatwell