Best known for his hallucinatory drawings that somehow managed to visualize the unique madness inside the mind of Hunter S. Thompson, Ralph Steadman has for years remained somewhat of a mystery. His artwork is iconic, yet the man behind the inkblots tends to stay out of limelight in a quiet English home as sedate as his work is wild. That’s where Charlie Paul’s documentary For No Good Reason comes in, offering a rare glimpse into the life and times of one of the 20th century’s most distinctive artists. Generally speaking, documentaries like this tend to be a mixed bag, with their subjects often dull enough to deserve their public silence. Thankfully, Steadman’s no bore (he was Thompson’s longtime partner in crime after all) and opens up with surprising sincerity and honesty once cameras are shoved in his face.
What emerges is a tale of a quietly rebellious young British artist whose life and work was forever changed by the Hunter S. Thomspon experience, yet managed to find a career all his own once gonzo was gone. With Johnny Depp as host and interviewer, Steadman opens up about his wildest tales, give lessons on proper inkblot artistry, and delves into some of his more fascinating side projects like his surreal manipulated Polaroids portraits and an almost psychotically immersive Leonard Da Vinci project. It’s all ultimately all hero worship and fan service, but at least Paul’s project is visually distinct enough to feel like a real movie and Steadman is willing to let a little vulnerability and sadness slip out between rounds of regaling.