THE EPITOME of the celebrity chef as culinary rock star, Anthony Bourdain gave off a seen-it-all, snortedshot-and-survived-it-all vibe — a New Yorker forged in the fires of five-star restaurants whose Zen-punk personality helped turn his book Kitchen Confidential into a bestseller. Beneath the author/TVshow host’s brash exterior, however, was a sensitive introvert, a doting father and a die-hard romantic who harbored a lot of doubt.
That’s the Bourdain that Morgan Neville’s documentary is interested in focusing on, as opposed to the larger-than-life character who ate cobra hearts for the camera and played taste-test tour guide on travel series like Parts Unknown. You get a great sense of who he was via recollections from his producers, peers, family, and friends, though you wish the movie dug deeper into his prefame years. (Bourdain’s brother Christopher provides anecdotes, but his early life still feels like a question mark.) Speculation regarding his self-destruction is thankfully AWOL; the pain of his loss still feels like an open wound to many of the interviewees here. They’ve come to praise Bourdain, not to bury him, yet Roadrunner is still a portrait of an artist who took on the burden of being a beacon and, somewhere along the way, lost sight of the light himself.