Suicide, no matter how you look at it, there will always be questions as to why. When someone famous commits suicide, well the whole world looks for answers. In the upcoming movie from Morgan Neville, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, you are given possibilities, you are given insight, but as with most suicides, you are left guessing as only one person has the answers.
You might go into Roadrunner expecting one thing and you might wind up with something completely different. There is insight into a personality that certainly had darker aspects and one that while he was content and happy to be a dad, he always was driven to be on the road 250 days per year. The film brings you stories about his family, life and adventures and certainly behind the scenes clips and insight you would have never been able to see before.
“It was just straight up out of the blue: ‘I’m wondering, are you happy?’ I know how hard that must have been for him to even write that email, to reach out to someone and be like, ‘Hey man I’m not doing well,’” artist David Choe relayed receiving that email from Anthony.
Choe also had a great comment about being artistic, “The best art is through intense suffering, so then do you put yourself in a situation where you are constantly in pain and the answer is yes.”
The one aspect of his personality that helped him succeed to much always likely was just as troublesome was his ability to dive into anything he was involved in 100%. From cooking, to writing to television, to overcoming drug addiction, jiu-jitsu and getting involved in the me too movement, if was going to take it on, he was going in all the way. This also came to the forefront near the end of his life with his relationship with Asia Argento and then having to see tabloids discussing their personal life and the pain that seemed to cause him.
This is a film that does a wonderful job of taking a look behind the scenes and allowing you to see what there was about Anthony Bourdain that allowed him to be so beloved by millions of people. The film provided commentary from Bourdain’s widow Ottavia Busia, David Chang, Eric Ripert, David Choe and many people who worked him filming his various shows. The one constant you could find from everyone is how much he is missed and how much he was loved. At times it is painful to watch the reactions and just emotions that come through not just in words or lack of them, but you can read the pain in their facial expressions.
While food was always at the forefront with anything Anthony was filming, it was always so much more. It was very beautiful to see his love of Vietnam and have that come through the screen while he also shared about less fortunate countries as Haiti. You always got a glimpse into the local food, but Anthony brought you more. He took you inside and you were given a true sense of what each area was like well beyond the food. This was when his storytelling and interviewing skills really shined.
Sadly, as the opening of Roadrunner was nearing, the news of Neville using AI voice technology for certain narrative clips that viewers would think was Anthony, only to find out it was not. This does leave a bit of a bad taste in your mouth as trying to determine what the point of this is truly unexplainable. Between actual comments from Anthony and the commentary of so many wonderful and insightful people, this was just a strange addition to the film and unnecessary.
What can one take away from Roadrunner? The main point is that we are all flawed, as was Anthony Bourdain, but he left his mark on the world and touched many lives through television. He was a truly wonderful storyteller who inspired countless people to experience food and life as well as travel as he brought parts of the world to you in a way that no one else could.