Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (Review)


I have been a huge fan of
Anthony Bourdain's ever since he wrote "Kitchen Confidential," a best-selling and scathing account of what goes on behind the scenes in restaurants.  Because of him, I would never order fish in a restaurant on a Monday. 

After studying at The Culinary Institute, Tony worked himself up to head chef at Les Halles restaurant in New York City and in his forties wrote "Kitchen Confidential," which in turn led to several TV shows where he traveled the world sampling international culture and all kinds of strange food.  It started with "A Cook's Tour" on the Food Network, followed by "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" and "The Layover" on the Travel Channel and finally "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" on CNN, which was more travelogue than food show.  He was also a judge on a cooking competition called "The Taste" for three seasons and wrote several other books and articles.  

And I watched and read them all because I loved Tony. He had a certain combination of dark humor and sensitivity that oozed warmth from the television that made me feel like he was my friend. He was also down-to-earth as he toured the world, hanging out with the locals, showing us out-of-the-way spots and teaching us how not to act like tourists.  And he seemed to be at the top of his game.

And then he hanged himself in France while filming "Parts Unknown."

But don't think this is a downer movie.  It is not.  It's all about a life well-lived.  

Through film archive footage and interviews with those who knew him - his second wife, Ottavia Busia, his brother, Christopher Bourdain, friends, colleagues and fellow chefs David Chang and Eric Ripert (Ripert was filming "Parts Unknown" with Tony when he died and found him in his hotel room), a portrait of Tony emerges that covers his life and career and it pulls no punches. He had a heroin habit at one time that he kicked, he had a dark side but he was also a talented writer as well as being a talented chef. Before his success, Tony sent emails to a publisher friend who was blown away by his eloquence and so "Kitchen Confidential" came into being and all that followed.  Success at 43.

But did Tony enjoy being successful?  Did he like being a Food Network star?  No.  He never wanted to be an Emeril or a Bobby Flay.  In fact, he had disdain for the Food Network.  And despite Tony's elan, he was quite self-deprecating and shy. His 30-year-relationship with his first wife fell apart and, even though he found happiness with his second wife, Ottavia Busia, and the birth of a daughter, life on the road - 150 days at a time - took its toll and he started to suffer from agoraphobia. And then a third relationship fell apart.

Does any of that explain why he did it?  

There are no easy answers and this film directed by Morgan Neville (who also directed the wonderful film about Mr. Rogers - "Won't You Be My Neighbor?") doesn't offer them. This is more about Tony's life than his death.  But there seems to be a theme: a smart, charming, sensitive guy who fought demons gets caught up in the fame machine and it chews him up and spits him out.

Hubby and I had the pleasure of meeting Tony.  We attended his one man show in Seattle and had VIP passes to a reception afterwards.  





He autographed his books and took pictures with us.


  

Here I am having my picture taken with Tony, something he must have done with fans hundreds of times.

I remember saying to him how much I enjoyed "The Layover" and he laughed and said he HATED doing that show. He was just so kind and down-to-earth, nary a bit of celebrity preening. He was a superstar who didn't act like one. He oozed warmth and self-deprecation and meeting him, I felt just like I did when I watched him on TV. He felt like a friend.

But now look at this picture. This is a less "official" one. 

You can see how happy I am to have met him, to have an autographed copy of his book, but then look over to the right at Tony.  Look how happy he looks.  He looks happy for ME being happy!  That picture says so much.  He made others happy, but, sadly, it seems he couldn't make himself happy.

So why did he do it? Was it the stress of life on the road? Was it his divorce?  Was it losing his latest love?  Did he feel unlovable?  We will never know.  But one thing I do know.  I loved him. 

Someone says in the film that Tony was always in pain and he tried to outrun it.  I guess he couldn't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a brilliant documentary about a brilliant life well-lived that burned out too soon. I predict this will win the Oscar for Best Documentary at next year's Academy Awards. (In theatres and available On Demand and from Amazon Prime)

(Note:  I chose not to address the controvery surrounding director Neville's decision to use A.I. to replicate Tony's voice at certain times in the film because I don't really care.  It's a wonderful film.  But I hope it doesn't affect his winning an Oscar).


Thanks for reading!

See you soon!



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And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

1 comment :

  1. Hi! I love how informative and great your articles are. Can you recommend any other Spiritual Awakening blogs that go over the same topics? Thanks a lot!


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