Roadrunner by Morgan Neville [9/10]

If you were a Bourdain fan, “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” is right up your alley, but what if you’re not? Me, I don’t read chef memoirs and watch few travel shows, so I was aware of him (who wasn’t?), but barely registered his presence and then absence, yet this surefooted, stately biography, crafted by stellar documentarian Morgan Neville, stirred me. Moving chronologically through Bourdain’s life until his sudden suicide, seemingly at the peak of his fame, the documentary inches toward the final, core question: why? Of course Neville was blessed with tons of on-screen hours to utilize, but he finds wonderful additional footage, plus a number of close friends and colleagues of Bourdain who were willing to be compelling talking heads (mostly seated at restaurant tables as if in homage). Neville shows a complete grasp of pacing, as the film flails at answering that big question, and although no final answer is given, the strong implication is that Bourdain’s obsessive personality, close to addictive, which hurled him at anything he was interested in or attracted to, plunged him too low after a final high. Watching the final credits, I felt a bond of connection to this talented, unknowable man. Roadrunner is surely one of the finest documentaries of 2021.

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