We were somewhere around the 45 minute mark on the edge of our seats when the inspiration began to take hold. If there is one flaw with Charles Paul’s new documentary For No Good Reason, the new documentary chronicling the career of artist/illustrator Ralph Steadman, it’s that it is near impossible to sit still and watch this man create his art and talk about his art without wanting to get up and do it yourself. Rarely does a documentary succeed in capturing the energy and passion of its subject so effectively and transferring this activity to the audience, and For No Good Reason succeeds in spades. Focusing largely on Steadman’s relationship with iconic Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the film is a captivating look at one of the quietest, angriest and undersung protesters from a generation of professional rabblerousers.
Narrated/hosted by Johnny Depp, who portrayed Thompson’s alter-ego Raoul Duke in the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the film is – minus archival footage and a couple scattered interviews – shot almost entirely within the cozy walls of Steadman’s studio and home, giving the film a very intimate feel. Steadman’s soft-spoken and honest answers, full of both deadpan self-deprecation and earnest idealism, are the highlight of the film as the subject seems equally willing to celebrate his accomplishments as he is to reveal regrets and disappointments.
With skillful editing assisting an already compelling story, the film has strong momentum and offers little opportunity for drag. Watching Steadman work and the childlike wonder which still captivates him at this late stage in his career, you can’t help but feel at least a touch of what art means to the people who dedicate their lives to the craft.
For No Good Reason succeeds in being everything it set out to be and, in the opinion of this writer, is one of the best offerings in this year’s Sarasota Film Festival.