Tightly-protected religion with some celebrity and dicey activity to make it doc worthy.
My Scientology Movie
Grade: C +
Director: John Dower (Thrilla in Manila)
Screenplay: Dower, Louis Theroux (Louis and the Nazis)
Cast: Marty Rathbun, Theroux
Runtime: 1 hr 39 min
by John DeSando
“But I've heard it's just brainwashing.” Louis Theroux
If you come to this comic documentary to better understand the philosophy of Scientology, you’d be better off looking at the HBO version. My Scientology Movie is documentarian Louis Theroux’s attempt to get into the compound and learn about it—the best he can do is recreate some of the better-known actions with actors on a sound stage.
Sure, Tom Cruise is the most notorious member, but you’ll see only snippets of him, especially when he accepts a grand medal from leader David Miscavige. Both do little in real life to mitigate the claim that this is a cult with severe laws and punishments. When Theroux has an actor play Miscavige as an almost maniac in the recreated meeting house “The Hole,” well, it’s scary.
The doc does well when it shows the various control features of the religion’s administration; it does not so well showing what the regimen of clearing (like confession for Catholics) does, how it carries through one’s life. It does reveal the big sums participants pay at each level of achievement (one claimed already to have paid $50 K for a mid-level rank).
As for the comedy claimed by the IMDb description, to me there was little to none except Theroux’s droll take and his surprisingly neutral attitude where Michael Moore would have scowled his way all around the building. The constant adversarial tone between the filmmakers and the religion drags after a while.
We’re there to get in inside scoop; we get little scoops of very little except the growing suspicion that we are dealing with a cult that will cleanse you of emotional baggage and purse.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com