Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain


Sometimes, having it all isn’t enough.

(2021) Documentary (Focus) Anthony Bourdain, Ottavia Busia Bourdain, David Chang, Helen M. Cho, Josh Homme, Eric Ripert, John Lurie, David Choe, Morgan Fallon, Doug Quint, Lydia Tenaglia, Christopher Collins, Tom Vitale, Philippe Lajunie, Alison Mosshart. Directed by Morgan Neville

 

It is not unusual that we feel we know those television personalities whose career give us an idea of their temperament and style. We spend hours and hours with them; isn’t that a form of knowing them? Not always. I’ve read many comments by people who viewed this documentary about the late travel/food program host, former chef and bestselling author Anthony Bourdain that “Tony would have liked this,” or “Tony would have approved of that,” despite the fact that they didn’t know him and likely never stood face to face with the guy. This, even after those who DID know him say at least a couple of times during the film that television Tony was a different person than off-camera Tony.

The movie, from Oscar-winning documentary auteur Morgan Neville, chronicles his rise from a dishwasher in New York to a cook to a chef who was convinced by the wife of a friend who worked for a publishing firm that his writing style would sell a lot of books. Thus came Kitchen Confidential, a trailblazing non-fiction look at what goes on in the kitchen of high-end New York brasserie. Bourdain, who had managed to kick a heroin habit, but merely transferred his addiction from one thing to another.

When TV producers Christopher Collins and Lydia Tenaglia heard that Bourdain was planning a follow-up book in which he would travel the globe, experiencing new cuisines and new cultures, they knew it would make a great TV show and so it did, and A Cook’s Tour became a hit. This led to No Reservations on the Travel Channel, and then his final show, Parts Unknown on CNN. We see how quickly Bourdain took to Vietnam, falling in love with the country and its food, joined on that episode by his old Les Halles boss Philippe Lajunie. We see him exploring the France of his boyhood with his brother, and later with his close friend Eric Ripert. We see how affected he was by conditions in pre-earthquake Haiti, and the amazing episode in Beirut that was interrupted by the beginning of a war that devastated the capital.

We also see the darker side of Bourdain; his relentless personality, the tantrums he throws when things aren’t going the way he thinks they should be, his occasional dark moods. We also hear from Bourdain himself that he yearns for a “normal” family life which he briefly had with his second wife Ottavia and his daughter Arielle, but his brutal travel schedule made that all but impossible. As his relationship with Ottavia ended, he took up with actress/director Asia Argento (daughter of horror legend Dario), and his addiction seemed to transfer to Asia. When she came out as a victim of Harvey Weinstein, Bourdain went all-in with #MeToo, ending some long-term friendships over things that had been said or done decades earlier (the film doesn’t mention that Argento herself was accused of sexual assault shortly after Bourdain passed away).

If there is a villain in this piece, it is Argento, at least in the eyes of those close to Bourdain and Neville. She directs some episodes of Parts Unknown and disagreements with her leads to the dismissal of a long-time camera operator for Bourdain, an action very out of character for the notoriously loyal host. But tabloid reports of Argento carrying on with another man, leading Bourdain to explode to one of his producers, “A little discretion, maybe?” in disgust days before Bourdain hung himself in a hotel room in Alsace, his body discovered by Ripert who doesn’t talk publicly about the incident.

Bourdain is barely a presence in the last half hour of the movie. We see a thousand yard stare, Bourdain glowering at the camera. Mostly, that portion of the movie is about his friends and family who break down, the wound still fresh two years (three as the film is released) after his death on June 8, 2018. Having had a close friend who took their own life, I can say that even a decade after she passed I still feel her absence keenly.

For some portions of the film, Neville recreated Bourdain’s voice using a Deepfake A.I. program. In those instances, the A.I. was using e-mails and other sources of Bourdain’s written correspondence, but still some found it to be skirting the line ethically. Bourdain’s widow, Ottavia Busia, firmly denies having given Neville permission to re-create her late husband’s voice after Neville told GQ magazine that he had received permission from her. Some have looked at this as a blurry ethical line; I suppose it’s no worse than staging a scene for a documentary, but at least those dramatic re-creations tend to be announced in the credits, which is something Neville should have done here.

The movie doesn’t dwell on the suicide so much as on the way Bourdain changed the lives of those who knew him, and on how all of those who watched his shows viewed travel. If there’s one thing Bourdain taught me, it was the importance of experiencing things as immersively as possible. When you go to a place, don’t limit yourself to all the tourist locations, the chain restaurants. Truly see a place, how the locals live, and eat what they eat. Travel, as Bourdain has said many times, changes us.

I don’t claim to have known Bourdain at all, other than what I saw of him on TV – and I did watch his shows, as a travel junkie and a foodie. I loved his acerbic wit, his self-deprecating snarkiness and his brilliantly descriptive narration. He was unlike anyone else on TV in that he didn’t seem to give a crap about what he was supposed to be like. He just did things the way he thought they ought to be done. Sadly, he had demons that haunted him throughout his life – I wouldn’t be surprised if he was undiagnosed bipolar, frankly – and never seemed to find the happiness that he yearned for. Maybe that’s the real tragedy of Anthony Bourdain.

REASONS TO SEE: Lots of amazing footage. Clearly an emotional subject for his friends two years after his death.
REASONS TO AVOID: Towards the end of the film, Bourdain is less of a presence.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of profanity and some drug references.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The title of the film comes from a Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers song.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/20/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 94% positive reviews; Metacritic: 80/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
Fin

New Releases for the Week of July 16, 2021


SPACE JAM 2: A NEW LEGACY

(Warner Brothers) LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lil Rel Howley, Zendaya, Gabriel Iglesias, Jim Cummings. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee

When a rogue artificial intelligence kidnaps his son, basketball legend LeBron James enlists the help of animated legend Bugs Bunny to re-assemble the Toon team, win a basketball game and save the universe. Or at least, this corner of it.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Family
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG (for some language and some cartoon violence)

Akilla’s Escape

(Vertical) Saul Williams, Thamela Mpumlwana, Donisha Rita Claire Pendergast, Vic Mensa. A young 15-year-old Jamaican boy living in an American urban war zone must come to terms with a generational relationship with crime and violence he thought he had escaped during a single night’s armed robbery.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Dachra

(Dekalog) Yassmine Dimassi, Hela Ayed, Aziz Jebali, Bilel Slatnia. A young journalism student and her two friends are trapped in a sinister village trying to solve a crime that occurred 25 years ago that may have involved witchcraft.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Die in a Gunfight

(Lionsgate) Diego Boneta, Alexandra Daddario, Justin Chatwin, Billy Crudup. Two black sheep children of powerful warring families reignite a love affair that will have far-reaching consequences in the underbelly of New York.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: CMX Merritt Square
Rating: R (for drug use, violence and language)

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

(Columbia) Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Thomas Cocquerel. Six people unwittingly find themselves back in the deadly Escape Room and must find out what their skills are so that they can work together to survive. But it turns out, they’ve all played – and beat – the game before, and this time the traps will be so much more lethal.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG-13 (for peril, terror, strong language and violence)

How to Deter a Robber

(SHOUT! Factory) Vanessa Marano, Leah Lewis, Chris Mulkey, Gabrielle Carteris. A stubborn young woman and her boyfriend, accused of a robbery she didn’t commit, looks to clear their names and come face to face with a couple of amateur thieves.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Crime Comedy
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

I Carry You with Me

(Sony Classics) Armando Espitia, Christian Vazquez, Michelle Rodriguez, Angeles Cruz. An aspiring chef is forced to leave his love and emigrate to New York, where his life changes – but his love doesn’t.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language and brief nudity)

Moby Doc

(Greenwich) Moby, David Lynch, Julie Mintz, David Bowie. An unvarnished and surreal look at one of the fathers of modern electronic music and noted animal rights activist Moby.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian (Monday only)
Rating: NR

Pig

(NEON) Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Cassandra Violet, Adam Arkin. A truffle hunter, living in the woods of the Pacific Northwest by himself (and prefers it that way), is forced to come to the big city when someone steals his beloved foraging pig.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Orlando, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, CMX Plaza Café, Regal The Loop, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language and some violence)

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

(Focus) Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, Josh Homme, David Chang. The life of the late Florida Film Festival attendee is looked at from his days as an unknown line cook in New York to becoming a bestselling author and a world-travelling television host.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16, AMC Classic New Smyrna, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Orlando, Enzian Theater, Regal Oviedo Marketplace
Rating: R (for language throughout)

Summertime

(Good Deed) Tyris Winter, Marquesha Babers, Maia Mayor, Mila Cuda. A day in the life of Los Angeles, as seen through the eyes of poets, rappers, musicians and artists from the innovative director of Blindspotting

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Musical
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language throughout and sexual references)

Sweat

(MUBI) Magdalena Kolesnik, Julian Swiezewski, Aleksandra Konieczna, Zbigniew Zamachowski. A Polish fitness instructor and internet lifestyle influencer battles loneliness, a stalker and an impending national TV interview as she tries to get through a weekend with her overbearing mother.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona
Rating: NR

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

Fire (Tuesday)
Great White
House of Quarantine
(Tuesday)
How It Ends
(Tuesday)
Out of Death
The Rebels of PT-218
Resurgence
(Tuesday)
Room Nine
(Tuesday)
Sleepless Unrest
The Witches of the Orient

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Pig
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
Sleepless Unrest
Space Jam 2: A New Legacy
Summertime
Sweat