For No Good Reason

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Release: Friday, April 25, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

If there’s any good reason to go see For No Good Reason, it’s the chance to see an extended slideshow of some of Ralph Steadman’s more provocative paintings.

Sure, you know who this guy is. His illustrations have probably even made an appearance in your nightmares at some point. Grotesque, emotionally raw and occasionally quite graphic, the splatter-art that has defined a couple of Hunter S. Thompson novels and the subsequent cinematic adaptations thereof has been a phenomenon you can’t quite ignore. The 78-year-old artist is simply too prolific. He has illustrated children’s books almost as much as he has detailed horrific imagery depicting some of the darkest corners of the human heart. While he has at times proven to be the voice of reason, other times he represents chaos and disorder, using his unique style to express deep frustration and even outrage at humanity’s capacity for evil, wrongdoing.

It is possible Steadman and his ideas are perhaps too big to fit into the home video format, which is essentially what For No Good Reason boils down to. His iconic work deserves much more detail and arguably even it’s own, separate film. Set Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets as the soundtrack to a collage of his best work, and you’re set; you have an instant classic on your hands. Neither the subject nor his art belong in a documentary quite as pedestrian as this. Director Charlie Paul and his wife, Lucy, a producer on the film, have good intentions, though, and they clearly revere the man and cherish the time they get to spend with him.

It’s certainly obvious what the film’s narrator — Hunter S. Thompson aficionado and puppeteer Johnny Depp — thinks, too. (Everything presented here is “amazing” to him. . .though he can’t really be faulted for saying the word over and over again, the work really is just that.) Ignoring all of the film’s blandness and a general failure to launch, the argument that the subject matter isn’t treated with respect cannot be made.

Any fan of the artiste or those with a general interest in the collaboration between Steadman and the father of gonzo journalism — a style of writing in which the narrator/author is not only spectator to the events surrounding him, but becomes a part of the drama himself, and writing from a point of view that’s not necessarily objective — will find themselves intrigued as Steadman regales the small camera crew that hangs about in his Kent, England home about a time in his life, something slightly more than a decade, that would prove to be both exciting and critical for his career. Touring the country with the crazed writer after bumping into him at the 1970 Kentucky Derby, Steadman would go on to experience great success as his frequent collaborations with Thompson gave him exposure he likely wouldn’t have received otherwise. In reflecting, Steadman’s nostalgia and passion for those days is palpable and these moments justify some of that ticket price.

But Johnny. . .oh Johnny: “Amazing.”

The documentary also is quite helpful in providing a first-hand account of how Steadman physically sets about creating his work. This is fascinating stuff as well. It could arguably be the main event. What blossoms out of a simple splattering of black paint is likely to leave the mind reeling. During this creative process the intimacy of the home video is actually beneficial. We always feel like we want to get closer to the artist and his canvas, and here we do.

Watching the soft-spoken Steadman go to work feels somewhat like a privilege, but elsewhere the production feels amateurish. The documentary doesn’t assume it’s audience has read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which seems a little counterintuitive since this documentary is all but catered to the fandom thereof. (Well, it’s not. It’s catered to the artwork. But the gonzo journalism-obsessives are likely to comprise the majority of the audience. This is a safe assumption, no?)

Outside of seeing the artist at work, there is not a great deal of payoff. Audiences paying to see this movie ought to have a decent background already on the Thompson-Steadman dynamic, but the Pauls make the mistake of assuming those in attendance haven’t yet accessed these beyond-ridiculous pages, this depraved adventure spewed forth from the collective minds of two men hell-bent on doing drugs and living the ‘American dream,’ as it were. There’s too much exposition and back-tracking, on top of a very awkward use of Depp. There’s a sense that we should all be paying more attention to this Hollywood celebrity more than the subject itself at times.

The film features additional interviews with the likes of Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), Richard E. Grant (Dracula), and Jann Wenner (Jerry Maguire) but their talking time is limited to unforgettable segments.

For No Good Reason means well, and it required a lot of effort and time to create. Apparently 15 years in the making, the final result unfortunately stoops to treating its audience as if it has deteriorated to the level of dumb beasts. Unless we have been casually sipping on gin and ingesting ether on a somewhat regular basis, there’s simply not enough here to justify a 90-minute production.

GALLERIA 

small Fahrenheit 451 hell hound

illustration for ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury

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‘Earth Belly’

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queen and alice ralph steadman

‘Queen and Alice,’ an illustration for Alice in Wonderland

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2-5Recommendation: Although fans of Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism, and Steadman’s unique art will undoubtedly find something to appreciate about the small window into the man’s life, this rather insignificant documentary ultimately comes off as slapdash, underserving both its subject and target audience by providing redundant information and failing to make proper use of Steadman’s utterly fascinating imagination. There are a few artistic flourishes throughout, but even these feel cheap and tacked-on. Somewhere out there lurks a better version of this film, and the faithful should stay vigilant for whatever that may be.

Rated: R

Running Time: 89 mins.

Quoted: “It’s what we’re thinking in the back of our heads, but aren’t capable of getting it out.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.ralphsteadman.com 

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17 thoughts on “For No Good Reason

  1. Pingback: Deadline For IMDB Guest Reviews & Some Remaining Films | Cinema Parrot Disco

  2. Certainly not my cup of tea but that poster….damn…that poster is sexy. Makes sense for it to be so darn good-looking considering what the documentary is about! This guy is extremely talented so it is shame that he is not represented to the best of his abilities here!

    • Aw, not a follower of Mr Steadman , I take it? That’s fine, though. Or if it’s the docu-format thing that throws you off the scent, I don’t blame you either. Feels like he ought to have an actual feature film involving him, rather than a humble home video with him in the center all the time. With Johnny Depp awkwardly hanging around. And yes, I agree about the misrepresentation bit. It is a little frustrating it couldn’t have been better. But it also could be worse, I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s terrible. 😀

  3. Still pretty interested in seeing this. Good job, Tom, like always! Thanks for the head’s up on this one, man!

    • My pleasure Vic, thanks for coming around again! Sorry I took a bit to get back to you on this.

  4. Fantastic. Finally had time to read it. I love Ralph Steadman’s work and you did a great job showcasing his talents. I hope ‘For No Good Reason’ is available to me soon. I’d like to see it even though you only gave it 5/8. Great post 🙂

    • Shoot, missed all these comments too. Wow my apologies Cindy!

      Thank you very much for your kind words, I enjoyed this docu for the most part, just wish it could have gone deeper. Nothing more than a surface-level evaluation of one fascinating man. That should be enough for a lot of folks

  5. Pingback: IMDB Top 250 Update – Guest Reviews Still Needed – Are You Still In? | Cinema Parrot Disco

    • The documentary is worth a look for a slideshow of his work, but the film doesn’t hold much value beyond that. It is a pity, you’re right sir!

      Thanks for checking in once again. 🙂

  6. Excellent review, Tom! I’m so glad you reviewed this as I’ve just recorded it and didn’t actually know what the hell it was. Lol. Have to admit I’d not heard of the guy so it sounds like the documentary may at least be good enough for the likes of me?? : )

    • Hey Mutey!!!

      In your case I think you’ll have a great time with it, and it will probably be insightful having no previous knowledge about the subject. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself too. But it wasn’t as eye-opening as I was expecting. And Depp for once really got on my nerves. . . .

  7. I freaking LOVE Ralph Steadman’s work. He is amazing. 😛 Unfortunately this sounds really disappointing, which makes me sad.

    • Steadman is fantastic. Unfortunately the subject matter is stuck in a film that’s not quite as much hahah. But I might be being really really critical. I don’t know. I mean, this film provides what you might expect, but I was hoping for a little bit more. You could really look up on IMDB or Wikipedia 99% of the stuff they tell you here. :\

      • 😦 No ways man. When you watch something like this you sort of hope to get some fresh and new insights to things, things you were not familiar with before. I don’t know if I will be watching this…

        • I wouldn’t blame you for putting it on the back burner. However it’d make for a more than satisfactory choice if you’re ever surfing Netflix. 🙂

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