I’ve loved Louis Theroux for ages now, I feel his nerdy persona really helps him to smoke out his subjects until they reveal something about themselves they were trying to keep hidden. I’ve been wanting to watch his film ‘My Scientology Movie’ since it came out in 2015, and tonight I finally did. I have to say unfortunately that while it was entertaining, it was overall underwhelming, and felt it was less of an insight into Scientology and more of a ‘let’s poke this organization and see how it retaliates’ film.
Interestingly, the film is more of a documentary about not being able to make a documentary. Theroux makes clear that he wanted to make a documentary but was stopped at every turn, denied interviews and lacked the insight into the organization to do so. However, this interesting concept turns out to be Theroux’s downfall, as he finds himself without enough footage to make the film.
About a third into the movie, the film begins to find its footing. You forget you’re watching a documentary rather than a creepy thriller, as it transpires that Louis is being followed and spied on by the church. What makes the film most enjoyable, and ultimately the only thing that warrants its existence, is the churches retaliation against Theroux and his team. The moments where the Scientologists try to scare off Theroux are actually some of the most revealing, and some of the funniest moments. The exchange between Louis and a Scientologist woman over who should stop filming who first felt like a Mexican standoff between two petulant children, but provided an entertaining insight into two strong-willed people who didn’t want to back down.
The movie certainly over-dramatizes some of the events to justify its hour and a half length, and I feel this begins to damage the integrity of the piece. What could’ve been a damning film exposing Scientology for the cult Theroux (and the media) clearly thinks it is, it falls into the trap of not having enough to work with.
The film does succeed in proving that scientology isn’t the joke everyone makes it out to be. It appears as though its hold on its followers is strong and powerful in an almost brainwashing way. I got the feeling this religion was an organization with a Hitler-type figure mast heading the whole operation. It is truly terrifying to learn how powerful they seem to be. If you thought Tom Cruise was a bit odd before, you’re opinion of him after this film will be shocking.
Overall, the film was certainly not without its merits. While it isn’t Theroux’s finest piece, it does provide an eye-opening insight into just how creepy Scientology is.