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Florida Film Festival: For No Good Reason

Johnny Depp and Ralph Steadman in For No Good Reason.
Johnny Depp and Ralph Steadman in For No Good Reason.
www.floridafilmfestival.com

For No Good Reason

Rating:
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For No Good Reason is a documentary that bears an uncanny resemblance to another doc that screened at the Florida Film Festival last year. That film, Far Out Isn't Enough, was another portrait of an outsider artist whose work is both controversial and madly genius. Both movies are stylistically original and utilize animation of the artist's work to further the narrative. The big difference is that Ralph Steadman, while an exceedingly talented artist, is not nearly the interesting subject that Tomi Ungerer was in Far Out Isn't Enough.

Ralph Steadman is a British artist best known for his collaboration with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. His drawings accompanied many of Thompson's stories, including his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Steadman is also known for his political cartoons, particularly those he created during the Vietnam War and Watergate era. Still productive in his late 70's, Steadman recounts the events of his life and work with A-list interviewer Johnny Depp, an old friend who drops by with a camera crew to record the proceedings.

Many documentaries seem content to follow the same boring formula of talking head interviews mixed in with archival footage. This technique can sometimes be passable if the subject is interesting enough. For No Good Reason certainly has its share of interviews and archival footage (of particular interest are home movies featuring Steadman and Hunter S. Thompson, who really does come across as insane as his reputation suggests). What sets this film apart is its kinetic energy. There is a dynamism to the cinematography and the way director Charlie Paul peppers the narrative with fully animated renderings of Steadman's paintings. It makes for a more visually interesting film than most documentaries.

Steadman is a genial subject, though his stereotypical British stoicism belies the other interviewees and their claims of what a madman he was back in the 70's. He comes off here as avuncular and pretty normal, even though his painting style, which he demonstrates, is pretty unorthodox. Johnny Depp provides occasionally voice over narration that works for the most part, except for a ham-handed attempt at the end to incorporate the film's title. It is an entertaining doc, but is a lesser sibling of Far Out Isn't Enough, a film that I recommend even more so than this one.

For screening info, visit the Florida Film Festival website. My other reviews from the fest can be found here.