Johnny Depp pays a call on his friend and hero Ralph Steadman and we take off on a highspirited, lyrical, raging and soulful journey discovering the life and works of one of Britain's most important and radical artists. The film is a riot of stories and images as we take a trip through the wild and dark days of Steadman's time with Hunter S. Thompson and gunfights with literary giant William S. Burroughs, with contributions from Terry Gilliam and Richard E. Grant. Director Charlie Paul has created remarkable animations to match the same anarchic energy and free spirit of Steadman's pictures, and incorporates music from Slash, All American Rejects, Jason Mraz, James Blake, Ed Harcourt and Crystal Castles.
So, like most fresher’s in their early twenties I watched Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas, the drug fuelled mayhem and comradery of the characters appealed to me; but I always felt as though the underlying depth of which I had heard so much about – the intimate melancholy I was promised – never quite broke the surface of the waves of general anarchy. For No Good Reason gives me the depth I felt was missing from Fear and Loathing and having seen it feel I am able to appreciate not only the artistry and talent of Ralph Steadman (who the documentary is primarily about) but the resin d’etre of the movement both he and Hunter S. Thompson were a part of.
With piles and piles of celebrities present in the film For No Good Reason certainly had the potential to be little more than a “look who I know” caught on film by director Charlie Paul. Instead however the film is not only able to resist the temptation to be a binge on the wants of low culture and celebrity spotting but also to distance itself from the traditional tropes of the artist documentary. Though some of you may be wary following this statement, do not fear, For No Good Reason does not make a mockery of Steadman or his talents (though I suspect he wouldn’t give a f*** even if it did), it simply looks at them from a different perspective.
Turning his drawings into mobile cartoons the film explores Steadman’s style and abilities, as well as his work and inspiration; more interestingly however the film explores Steadman’s own experience of art, his influences and very personal approach to the blank canvas that faces him each day.
Presented by Johnny Depp the film also explores the work Steadman has done alongside a number of other notable and famous names including Richard E. Grant and Terry Gilliam.
What was most captivating however was the intimacy of the discussions held between Depp and Steadman, late in the film Steadman even reveals his concerns with his own mortality and legacy, admitting that the fear of being forgotten even keeps him awake at night. This is not only a surprisingly touching moment but shines an entirely new light on his work and those of his contemporaries.
There are undeniably moments in the film where Paul becomes a little over indulgent, one laugh out loud incident in which he suggests that it was Steadman’s work that was responsible for the resignation of corrupt American president Richard Nixon, but by and large For No Good Reason, the title of which I have since learnt comes from Thompson’s explanation of why he chose to live the way he did, is interesting and insightful and well worth watching to anyone with an interest in Thompson, Steadman and their contemporaries.