I love Anthony Bourdain. And by that, I mean I love his books and shows, because it is the only way I knew the man. The essence of a successful food and travel host is not only to be a great guide but an entertaining, engaging companion, and Bourdain was that and more.
Roadrunner, naturally, offers to give greater insight and attempts to do so through the remembrances of his friends, loves and/or colleagues. But also, through the film of Bourdain himself, which I assume there is quite a lot of, given his long run on TV.
Too bad for him. In a lot of ways, the documentary offered the man behind the curtain, and for the most part, other than demonstrating a frenetic pace, a little benign soul-searching and some introspective gallows humor, the footage is of no real moment. Likewise, his friends confirmed he was fun, obsessive, controlling and a little dark at times.
Regardless, the entire endeavor was such an exercise in post-mortem narcissism, with laser-like focus on the why (did he kill himself?) and the who (was he really, deep inside?), they never got to the best part, the what (impact did he have on others and the world around him?) They have so much footage of Bourdain waxing introspectively just to pass the time, but it lacks verisimilitude and gravitas. And how much can anyone take of a man talking about himself, followed by friends who don’t so much talk about him but about his psyche and his end, in the manner of adults playing Clue?
I was surprised about how bored I became. This is a man whose legacy is what he did at all moments before his end and its impact, and yet, Roadrunner spends itself on why he did it, and the impact of that last impetuous act on the interviewees (newsflash – they were very sad). Lost is his life as a chef, his impact on others here and abroad (Where is his daughter? Who cares? Let’s devote more time to how confused, rootless and exhausted Bourdain was made by excessive travel!) and the joy he gave people. My God, there is one scene where an interviewee provides us the meanest thing Bourdain said to him and then starts bawling. So very, very small.
Three other problems. The documentarians did not interview his last girlfriend yet posited that his obsession with her was contributory if not dispositive to his undoing. She, Asia Argento, is a loon, but still, not quite cricket to condemn and then omit her. They also computer-generated Bourdain’s voice briefly, with the director saying his widow told him Bourdain would have been “cool” with it. She denies any such coolness and as brief as the gambit was, it is a stain. Finally, there are many references to Bourdain’s heroin addiction but little explanation as to how he overcame it or how it influenced or altered his existence. It’s like saying Patton was a veteran and leaving it that.
On HBO Max.