Anticipation: 4/5 I was disappointed not to catch My Scientology Movie at the cinema. I have been a long-time admirer of Louis Theroux’s documentaries. I frequently revisit his earlier Weird Weekend series just because each time I watch the peculiar world Louis navigates, I find myself met with a renewed sense of astonishment. So, hearing about My Scientology Movie sounded like a blissful match; Louis’ wry expressions up against the bewildering hostility of the Church of Scientology? This is going to be great!
Final Verdict: 4/5 My Scientology Movie is a must see for all fans of light-hearted informative filmmaking, and those who are curious about the most closed-door church in recent years.
Well established BBC documentary filmmaker, Louis Theroux, takes a look at the Church of Scientology, focusing more specifically on Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige, and Scientology poster boy, Tom Cruise. To say an interview with head honcho Miscavige is wishful thinking doesn’t even come close. With the help of former Scientology senior executive, Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun, Theroux uses open auditions to re-enact significant Miscavige speeches and events from behind closed doors.
At the outset, Theroux recognizes the church’s reputation but ponders whether there was a more welcoming and cuddly side to Scientology. Nice try Louis, but there’s only one way this was going to play out, and it wasn’t going to involve an amicable discussion with Miscavige over a cup of tea. In true Theroux style, My Scientology Movie, directed by John Dower, is a refreshing look at the world’s most cloak-and-dagger church, cleverly gaining valuable insight from former church members to drive the focus of the film. Naturally the church catches wind of some unwanted publicity and reacts to Theroux’s project in the only way it knows, through legal threats and personal intimidation. Louis Theroux remains as composed as always, mastering the delicate art of asking piercing questions, and then just sitting back comfortably in the uncomfortable silence that follows. Another intrigue of this movie is the relationship between Louis and ex-Inspector General for the church Marty Rathbun, although collaborative, their relationship becomes increasingly tense as elements of Rathbun’s past surface.
It would be wrong of me to talk about My Scientology Movie without mentioning Andrew Perez. Perez gives a disturbing portrayal of David Miscavige, and although I believe only a very select few can give true testimony as to Miscavige’s character, we at least have Rathbun’s approval to rely on. That said, I feel inclined to believe Perez’s depiction accurate as a result of the troubling and bizarre manner the Church responds to the making of the film. Louis and his documentary team find themselves feeling the peculiar sting as Church members and prominent figures follow them around Los Angeles overtly surveilling the crew. All this leaves the viewer to draw their own conclusions as to whether these reactions from individual scientologists mirror Miscavige’s own obsessions and paranoia.
You may find some scenes frustrating in places because Louis gets very few answers from anyone currently in the church. In the end, the film provides a series of awkward and strange roadside confrontations that are amusing nonetheless.
Any documentary made by Louis Theroux is going to be an entertaining watch. Much credit must go to the work in the editing room as My Scientology Movie remained well paced and funny, using short visually pleasing informative subtitled cuts which complimented each scene and Theroux’s narration excellently. My Scientology Movie may not be on your radar at the moment, especially of late with the release of some highly-anticipated films. However this is a must see for all fans of light-hearted informative filmmaking, and those who are curious about the most closed door church in recent years.
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