‘Roadrunner’ director relives the pain of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide: ‘I spent time swimming in the sea of grief he left behind’
Morgan Neville, director of the new Anthony Bourdain documentary “Roadrunner,” attempts to answer the question how someone seemingly so happy as Bourdain kills himself.
Ethan Alter at Yahoo Entertainment:
Bourdain’s own fascination with suicide may have grown out of the addictive behavior that he wrestled with all his life. The chef described his bout with drug and alcohol abuse in his bestselling memoir, Kitchen Confidential, but Roadrunner illustrates how he continued to find new addictions even after he kicked those habits — whether it was jiu-jitsu or a punishing work schedule.
“Tony absolutely transferred his addictive tendencies,” Neville says. “Part of why the kitchen worked so well for him was the rigor of it. And his show he kind of ran the same way. When he wasn’t shooting the show, he was doing book and lecture tours. It was just incredible how much work he put in front of himself at all times. He was always all-in, and that’s part of what made him great to watch, but it’s also a very tough way to live.”
Even though Roadrunner expressly avoids romanticizing Bourdain’s life and memory, Neville does feel the film offers a nuanced portrait of its subject — one that will win over viewers who might be resistant to feeling sympathy for someone who achieved so much success. “To say that just because somebody has success means they should be happy is wrong,” the director notes. “Tony never really wanted to be famous, and in fact, he became agoraphobic later in his life because he was always kind of a shy person, which I think people don’t really know.”….
Coming into Roadrunner, the big question viewers will likely have on their minds is “Why?” But Neville hopes they leave the theater with the answer to a different query. “I feel like the film is less about why he committed suicide and more about how could the guy we thought we knew — the kind of funny, smart guy we had a relationship with on TV — how do you reconcile that with somebody who would commit suicide? Making that connection is the kind of thing I was looking for. Tony’s curiosity and seeking are all great things, but done in extremes they become dislocating. It was hard for him to feel love and emotion, really. There’s never a tidy answer to why anybody kills themselves, but at least we can start to understand how that possibly could have happened.”
It’s a common observation that people who appear outwardly happy are often miserable. But that seems unsatisfying with Bourdain, because he was just so damn convincing.
Also: The documentary uses AI technology called “deepfake” to reproduce Bourdain’s voice reading some of his email, which has proven controversial. Neville claimed he had the approval of Bourdain’s family and estate, including his widow, Ottavia. But shedenies it.