December 19, 2014

Film: For No Good Reason Surprising in Every Way.

 

Director Charlie Paul helps explain what exactly gonzo is.

For No Good Reason opens with Ralph Steadman admonishing Johnny Depp that “something may or may not come out of this.” A documentary canvasing one man’s artwork would warrant said warning. However, Steadman’s intensely provocative work takes the audience through America’s turbulent modern history with a personal flourish.

PHOTO BY CHARLIE PAUL, COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Film: <i>For No Good Reason</i> Surprising in Every Way.

Ralph Steadman

For all intents and purposes, For No Good Reason is a documentary in its truest form. Witnessing baptism by fire in order to achieve full potential is pure catnip for any creative soul. Approaching 80, watching the glint in Steadman’s eye as the paint splatters on canvas shows that the gonzo-journalism/art spirit of being in the moment has never left him.

Capturing the essence of gonzo is what defines this film. Hunter S. Thompson obviously isn’t available for the proceedings, but his presence permeates the heart of the film. Meeting in 1970 to cover the Kentucky Derby in a blind date (of sorts) assignment, Thompson and Steadman became an effective duo covering everything from Nixon to the instant classic, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Even though the pair would eventually bicker about who had the larger claim to being more gonzo, there’s a sweet underbelly of two outliers making each other’s work exponentially better.

The best thing director Charlie Paul could’ve done was to place the camera in front of Depp and Steadman and let them go as they please. Paul is doing an homage to his hero with his own form of gonzo. He arrives at the scene, engages the audience and tells the story. It sounds really simple but most directors lack that tenacity. The workshop quality of two craftsman sharing the process and secrets of their trade creates an ambience similar to Davis Guggenheim’s It Might Get Loud. By the time Steadman is holding court, forget about the documentary—you’re riding shotgun with two of gonzo’s finest. Paul ultimately focuses on the work itself but is done minus the glad-handing.

Thoughtful, evocative and rife with socio-political commentary; For No Good Reason is a must watch.