For No Good Reason
directed by Charlie Paul
starring Ralph Steadman and Johnny Depp
Ralph Steadman is the nicest guy in the world, jovial and British to a fault. But his art is warped and demonic; he starts with paint splatters and ends with bloody political commentary. While Steadman has been prolific and published extensively, it's his work with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson that gained him most of his notoriety.
This loving documentary may go for more Instagram than is healthy, while it shows Steadman at work it focuses on Mr. Thompson. The two were like brothers, fighting and collaborating and making as big a change in the world as any cartoonist could desire. Their first project was the 1970 Kentucky Derby; it was Steadman's introduction to Middle America and his drawings show us at our well-deserved worst. Later projects included the notorious Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, endless screeds again Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War, and the Muhammad Ali fight in Zaire. Why Zaire? Mostly tax reasons, but Black Power figured in there somehow. Terry Gilliam and Richard Grant appear live, and Thompson reveals himself through a string of archival interviews and informal home movies.
We see Steadman as an artist with an exceptionally distinct yet accessible style, and Thompson as a man burning brightly and briefly. There's a lot of Baby Boomer nostalgia here, and it's not the "pot and embarrassing prom tuxes" variety. This is what we wanted to change, this was our dream, and now it's pretty much spent. Did these guys change the world? Maybe a little, but they are still our idols, feet of clay and all.
This film is part of the 2014 Florida Film Festival running April 4 to 14 in Orlando Fl. Details, screening locations and times may be found at www.floridafilmfestival.com.