Lacking impact, but terrifying and funny nonetheless.
When My Scientology Movie was announced, I was hugely excited. Louis Theroux is something of an idol to me, tackling devastating issues with a masterful approach that never gets old. Scientology as a topic is controversial one, often sparking frenzied debate between the followers and non-followers. From the outside it all looks a bit silly, but Louis Theroux has managed to show that the politics behind the religion, and the goings-on behind closed doors require more attention.
Rather than your standard Theroux doc, there aren’t many varying interviews in My Scientology Movie. Accompanying Louis is Marty Rathbun, a former Scientologist who guides him along the way and tries to help him comprehend the religion. Often finding reluctance from Scientology members, Louis recreates infamous Scientology-events using actors to give both himself and the viewer a clearer understanding.
These recreations take up quite a large portion of the movie. On the whole they’re played for humour rather than impact. Sure they’re enjoyable, and seeing Louis participate brings out the big laughs, but they don’t give us that lingering dread that his documentary’s often have. Nor do they match the chilling nature of The Act of Killing.
This does mean there isn’t as much classic Theroux on offer as I would have liked. However, one has to remember the resilience of the Scientologists. If Louis could have made a movie packed full of interviews with significant members (including Tom Cruise who ‘politely declined’ to participate in the film), he would have.
Thankfully, there are still a few terrific, memorable moments. Car rides with Rathbun are tense regardless of Louis’ techniques – not to spoil anything, but you can never quite shake a distrust of Rathbun. Seeing Louis trying to dig deeper into his psyche makes for damning, quality entertainment.
The paranoia and well, delusion behind Scientology is presented front and centre, especially when Louis tries to go to the headquarters. Any members we see are anything but pleasant, either being fairly aggressive or evoking a feeling of major unease – like something out a horror film.
To sum it up…
Louis Theroux’s first feature film is a moderately successful look at Scientology. Whilst some more of Theroux’s trademark deadpan encounters would have been nice, what we see works well, and certainly portrays the frankly twisted religion in an unavoidable, imperative light.
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Author: Cameron Frew