"Fame and Fortune Don’t Bring Happiness"
What You Need To Know:
ROADRUNNER is fascinating for its look at Bourdain’s amazing life and the far-flung locales and circumstances through which he traveled, but also disturbing. It’s a powerful cautionary tale about how fame and fortune won’t lead to true happiness. The movie mixes this moral message with some strong Romantic elements. For example, it describes Anthony as a Romantic man who always followed his heart, to both good and bad results. ROADRUNNER has lots of strong foul language. Also, its themes of suicide, archival footage of world conflicts, discussion of his dangerous relationship with an actress, and discussions of his past struggles with drugs make ROADRUNNER a movie for mature viewers only. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
Anthony Bourdain was a world-famous chef who became even more famous as an author of memoirs and travelogues who achieved worldwide acclaim for his CNN documentary series “Parts Unknown.” He seemed to have everything – fame, fortune and what appeared to be a happy personal life. Yet, he shocked the world in 2018 when he committed suicide by hanging himself.
The new documentary, ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN, seeks to both provide a full portrait of this complex man and shed light on what drove him to that dark decision. Directed by Morgan Neville, who won an Oscar for the documentary 20 FEET FROM STARDOM and then had a hit documentary in 2018 on Mr. Rogers called WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, the new doc is fascinating both for its look at Bourdain and the far-flung locales and circumstances through which he traveled.
The doc opens with a burst of fast-paced rock and roll as it shows a montage of his vibrant travels and experiences with famous people around the world. That rock and roll spirit was at the center of Bourdain’s way of life, as he is described as a Romantic man who always followed his heart, to both good and bad results.
Influenced as a youth by the works of rebellious writers such as Hunter S. Thompson and other artists, Bourdain had a cocaine and heroin addiction in his early adulthood. However, he was also a believer in true love who had a 30-year relationship with his first wife Nancy and felt torn about how good a father he was to the daughter he had with his second wife.
Bourdain started as a dishwasher in a restaurant before working his way up to immense success as a chef. He wrote a series of colorful emails to a friend about his wild life experiences and no-holds-barred description of what life is like behind the scenes in top-tier restaurants. The friend showed the emails to his wife, a book publisher, which led to Bourdain getting a book deal. That book, “Kitchen Confidential,” became a worldwide bestseller and led to Bourdain getting a TV series deal as well.
Bourdain had never traveled much before, but his adventures in the series “Parts Unknown” were transformative. He started out with the intention of focusing on food and how it impacts world culture, but the program evolved into intensely philosophical looks at why the world has poverty and issues with immigration.
Yet, Bourdain was not a political person, and mostly refrained from espousing any political viewpoints in the show. He simply gave the world’s poor and struggling a voice to explain what their lives were like.
Throughout his journeys, as his fame grew, it cost him his two marriages and impacted his attempts to be a good father to his daughter. He also secretly struggled with depression. His friends and creative partners, however, were unaware Bourdain was often mired in sadness. Despite worldwide fame and fortune, he really wanted to be left alone and wished he could be off camera, even in his own series.
At one point, Bourdain tells a Buddhist friend that he himself “tries to emulate Christ at least once every day.” While Bourdain frequently uses profanity, the documentary also shows him as being an incredibly kind and well-intentioned person
The last half-hour of the movie focuses on how Bourdain fell apart in the last two years of his life, as he lost his second marriage and most contact with his daughter, while also embarking on a dangerous relationship with Italian actress/director Asia Argento. While the movie doesn’t mention it, Argento is known to be a witch and Satanist. As Bourdain falls ever harder in love with her, his tone and work become ever darker. It’s too bad the filmmakers don’t make or investigate the possible connection between occultism and Bourdain’s later troubles.
Ultimately, ROADRUNNER mostly serves as a powerful cautionary tale about how fame and fortune are illusory and don’t lead to true happiness. It describes Bourdain numerous times as being a “seeker” who never could seem to find true meaning and happiness in life, sad facts that no doubt bedeviled him to the point of suicide.
The movie has a lot of strong foul language in it, so it’s only for adults with extreme caution. Its themes of suicide, archival footage of conflicts around the world, discussion of his dangerous relationship with Argento, and discussions of his past struggles with drugs also make ROADRUNNER a movie for mature audiences only. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.