World-renown chef, author and TV host Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in 2018 at the age of 61, shocking the culinary world. Morgan Neville’s “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” attempts to encapsulate his life in a brutally honest way, documenting very briefly his early years as a chef, his rise to fame as a TV host known for highlighting other cultures as he explores the world.
I’ve written about this film before, when it became known that Neville had used morally-dubious AI technology to fabricate Bourdain’s voice at certain parts in the film, in which he used it to get soundbites of words Bourdain wrote but never said. After seeing the film, I can’t defend Neville’s use of that technology, or his lack of disclosures as to when he used it — it’s dishonest and unethical, and I do think it impacts the credibility of the film, though documentaries in general should never be treated with the same level of trust as primary sources.
Neville’s misuse of AI aside, the film is otherwise pretty honest as to the type of person Bourdain was, painting a picture from interviews of the people that knew him of a brilliant culinary mind who had trouble with substances in the past that was driven by some sort of emptiness inside himself. That emptiness never quite left him after he got clean and rose to fame, which is tragic, as it’s pretty clear that his discontent with the present moment was part of his drive.
The film as a whole feels like it was made by an acquaintance of Bourdain, who knew a little more than the general public about his life, but is missing huge details only Bourdain and those in his inner circle knew. It has some good interviews, and its narrative is mostly cohesive — though it does unfortunately speed through his early life to focus on the parts people know him for, namely his TV career.
I wouldn’t call this documentary the definitive source for Bourdain, and I expect that we’ll see a better attempt at documenting his life sometime in the future. But despite its flaws and questionable use of AI technology, it does a fine enough job that should satisfy fans of Bourdain.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain gets a 7/10