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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 6 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 23
Arts & Entertainment
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While not gonzo, Reason is still pretty darn good

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

FOR NO GOOD REASON
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Director Charlie Paul spent 15 years amassing footage about legendary animator, artist and author Ralph Steadman, the last of the remaining 'Gonzo' journalists who worked with idiosyncratic literary wild-child Hunter S. Thompson. The two are best known for their collaboration on the Las Vegas expose Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas but their friendship and working relationship went far beyond that 1971 effort, the pair also joining forces on everything from the Rumble in the Jungle to the Kentucky Derby to their Hawaiian adventures chronicled in The Curse of Lono.

The documentary film For No Good Reason is the culmination of Paul's efforts. Utilizing a framing device featuring actor and Thompson devotee Johnny Depp visiting Steadman at his sprawling U.K. home, the movie intersperses interviews with the likes of Terry Gilliam, Richard E. Grant and Jann Wenner, alongside footage of the artist creating some of the outlandish, one-of-a-kind surrealistic images he's most known for. Interspersed throughout is archival footage from a variety of sources (some of it of Steadman, a lot of it with Thompson himself), the idea to paint as full a picture as possible of the artist and his process.

It's interesting stuff, to be certain; watching Steadman and Depp (who more or less narrates the proceedings) pal around hardly a chore. But that picture? That picture isn't nearly as well developed as I think Paul means for it to be; and even with 15 years to put everything together, the director still can't quite get a handle on the image he's attempting to construct, let alone put the finishing touches on. Things remain as ephemeral as ever; and while, maybe, that is as it should be, that didn't stop me from wanting more than what the movie itself was willing to give.

Be that as it may, For No Good Reason is still awfully entertaining. The archival footage is fairly incredible, while the fashion in which Steadman works is as one of a kind and as uniquely original as anything a person possibly ever could have imagined beforehand. While he doesn't give tons of insight into his process, I did get a fairly solid feel of what his time working in tandem with Thompson did in fact mean to him. Paul's movie isn't awesome, never quite capturing that gonzo esthetic Steadman and his compatriots where known for; but it's still pretty darn fascinating, and for fans of the artist there isn't a reason good or bad that I can come up with to dissuade them from taking the time to give it a look.

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