Maria Bustillos in Eater:
An obscure, 43-year-old chef and author of minor crime novels is reborn, after a sudden and unexpected literary success, into a life of global fame and influence. A charmed life, cut short when he hanged himself in a hotel bathroom in Alsace 18 years later. This is the story of Roadrunner, the new documentary about the late Anthony Bourdain directed by Morgan Neville.
The film is an elegant montage of interviews with Bourdain’s intimates — chefs David Chang and Eric Ripert, painter David Choe, musicians Josh Homme and John Lurie, Ottavia Busia (his second wife, and the mother of his daughter Ariane), and many others — intercut with images of rock stars, writers, and classic films he admired, and archival footage from a long, strange career in front of the camera. Over the years the boyishly awkward, Rundgrenesquely toothy grin of 1999 gives way to Bourdain’s familiarly friendly, knowing, jaded smile.
Since Bourdain’s death, the desire to get to the Real Truth of Bourdain has been as fervent as his memorialization. In the brave new world of social media influencers and reality TV, an awareness of the artificiality of even the most “authentic” branded personality is taken for granted; maybe more than that, people want — and even need — to know how someone so loved and admired could have slipped beyond the reach of friends, of help. And so the intense drive to understand the space between the genuine Bourdain and the Bourdain on camera grew. What Neville has attempted to do with Roadrunner is to close that gap.