“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” March 28, 2022 (2021), DVD. Anthony Bourdain’s suicide in 2018 at the age of 61 shocked so many people. His authorial voice, his intense and candid takes on himself, food, restaurants, and culture more generally inspired and entertained millions of viewers tired of precious travel and food shows. He was not a celebrity chef for his cooking. Rather he became a cultural force because of his openness, a direct style that appealed to viewers as honest in a way few were. Yet his brashness also hid a shy romantic, while his peripatetic life undermined the traditional normalcy he also craved. This is worth viewing even if you’re not a foodie.
A young heroin addict from Provincetown, MA., he quit cold turkey, became a dishwasher and rose to become a chef at Les Halles in New York City. His clarity as a writer led to his publications and the various series that followed him around the world. On the road for over 250 days a year for decades, he simultaneously tried to be ‘normal.’ But he couldn’t. His celebrity self kept drawing him back to the road, to experience, to speak, to open himself. It does not end well.
This documentary, which uses unacknowledged AI-generated readings of his emails along with ‘real’ recordings, is based on his shows, the innumerable interviews he did, interviews with his many friends, colleagues, and spouses, as well as home videos. Neither his daughter nor his last companion were interviewed. His life was one of full immersion in the moment, and it seems likely that he concluded that he could never truly ‘find’ and sustain the all-consuming love he desperately wanted. His aloneness as a celebrity disabled his ability to feel the love others felt for him as a sustained force.