Where I Watched It: HBo MAX
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Honestly, while my knowledge of celebrity chefs and the food world is limited, I never really found myself drawn too much to Anthony Bourdain. I’m sure he guest judged on Top Chef at some point, and I was one of the five people who watched Bradley Cooper’s short lived FOX sitcom, Kitchen Confidential, based on Bourdain’s best selling novel. Since that point, I’ve always been aware of who he is, and seeing him on his numerous television programs, but my deep knowledge or respect for his life and legacy kind of stopped there.
That is, until I watched Road Runner, an oddly satisfying meditation on life from a man, who unbeknownst to all involved, would go on to commit suicide. Bourdain offers many of his own truths, his thoughts on life, his world, his family, his fame, all from the perspective that he knew this documentary would serve as a representation of his career and life. But much like Anthony seemed to live his life with no reservations, he also very much navigates this documentary with a seeming lack of care about what content is included.
Bourdain is very open about his struggles, his failings, his addictions, to the point where you don’t feel that typical vibe often thrown into films that become a tribute to a life cut short. It would be easy for the filmmakers to have cut out all the material that made Bourdain look anything less than angelic, but they made the right call to portray Bourdain as is, warts and all. That’s at least what he seemed to want from his experiences shared with the filmmakers.
Add to that, a ton of interviews with those who knew Anthony best, both in the happier times, and also at the end, being willing to talk about what the loss of one of their closest friends meant to them. Not to his television audience, or to the people who loved his cooking, or his fans that never got to meet him, but to these real people who shared the same breathing room as Bourdain. These real life people, many who were famous in their own right, talked about Anthony just as anyone would the loss of their friend. Not with the kind of reverence that his loss means something for the entire world, but simply with his absence in their life, in Anthony’s daughter’s life, means. It’s that grounded finality that brings Road Runner full circle, as Anthony seems to start the documentary as a man unafraid of death, while circling back to how his absence has changed those who knew him best.
For a documentary about an individual I had no personal love or connection toward, Road Runner did just about as good of a job as it could balancing all the many ideas in the air to create a cohesive Bourdain experience. And, perhaps there are still elements of Bourdain left off the table, that he still didn’t feel comfortable talking about. But his willingness to admit to several large road bumps, made this runner prepared for a marathon, even if it didn’t get to finish the race.
The Blind Perspective: Even though the film chooses not to credit anyone with narration, I do have to give props to the decision near the end of the film to include the entire information about the Suicide prevention Hotline, including the phone number. It was obviously an intentional touch, and came within the movie itself, instead of being thrown into the end credits. I thought that decision was intentional, and I applaud that choice.
Final Grade: A-