Fun but flawed, Louis shines in a lightweight documentary
By Jay Hunter – Less a comprehensive examination into the Church of Scientology than Louis Theroux being at his beehive prodding best. My Scientology Movie is a documentary that never attains access to it’s subject, instead just pointing and laughing from afar.
The movies synopsis declares that: “Following a long fascination with the religion and with much experience in dealing with eccentric, unpalatable and unexpected human behaviour, the beguilingly unassuming Theroux won’t take no for an answer”.
However, it feels that Theroux may have jumped at the chance to document the notoriously shady organisation without releasing just how hard it would be to extract information and does take no for an answer. Being an infamously nefarious “religion”, Louis immediately runs up against road-blocks, finding himself having to hire actors to play members, as ex high level Scientologist’s dictate reenactments.
One such advisor is, Marty Rathbun a former senior executive of the Church of Scientology who last held the post of Inspector General of the Religious Technology Centre. Unfortunately, hiring Rathbun comes at the price of finding Louis largely extraneous in his own feature. Part of Theroux’s appeal which made BBC series such as Weird Weekends so charming, is his ability to humanise his subjects, an effect that is largely negated when we have performers playing the likes of Tom Cruise.
With amusement standing in as the substitute for eye-opening facts, the superlative situations come in the fashion of Louis doing what he does best, winding people up who take themselves far too seriously. Scenes where the British-born documentarian is shoving his camera phone in the face of a man concurrently filming him (pictured above), asking awkward, agitating questions shine brightest. In a time where Theroux’s documentaries have been growing in seriousness, it’s nice to see him back at his unassuming best, unfortunately there’s little other substance in My Scientology Movie.