Fifteen years in the making, this intimate and funny documentary provides an insight into the life of the British cartoonist Ralph Steadman, delving into his imagination as well as his life’s work, as he allows the actor Johnny Depp into his workshop to discuss the things that matter most.
It’s a new direction for Johnny Depp but for once the famous actor is playing nobody but himself. Throughout the documentary For No Good Reason, the Pirates of the Caribbean star is our narrator and guide and it is his kind personal relationship with the world famous cartoon artist Ralph Steadman that gives us the honest opinions and discussions that we normally only see from Steadman’s art work.
The documentary has an intimate feel to it. Steadman not just allows Depp and the cameras into his life and workshop but also shows a great honesty in the stories he tells about his relationship with his close friend, journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson for whose books he has provided a lot of illustrations.
Steadman believes that the essence of his work is to distort and yet maintain likeness. Throughout the documentary Steadman’s animations appear almost as if they were acting characters in their own right. They are presented not just as still images but brought to life in a very vivid manner with, at times, almost disturbing detail. We also get to see the man himself complete some pieces of work from start to finish which is a rare treat and shows just how extraordinary his talent is.
There is a strong political significance to his work as Steadman believes that “authority is the mask of violence,” and that it is his “duty to change the world”. This feeling of ‘making an impact’ is a constant theme throughout the film. We learn how in Steadman’s later work it is possible to see a shift to the even more politically sensitive. It is important that For No Good Reason does not leave out this vital change in Steadman’s direction and approaches it in a way which reveals the cartoonist importance as a provider of societal commentary rejecting the status quo.
The final verdict? This cinematic celebration of Steadman’s work oozes affection and authenticity and provides a valuable insight into the mind of one of the most revered and prolific artists of recent times.