Director: John Dower
There are a lot of people talking excitedly about this – Louis Theroux on the Big Screen – finally! – and tackling Scientology. Well, he’s not exactly tackling it, more grabbing it around the neck and tousling its hair if he’s lucky…
Actually Louis Theroux’s Scientology Movie – which in fact belongs to director John Dower and BBC Films more than it ever belongs to Theroux – is undone by Theroux’s early disingenuous tongue-poke moment where he tries to straight-face an interest in finding the good in Scientology. Maybe in 15 years he’ll make a movie to apologise for that remark – it’s about as wrong as Theroux has been since, well, since that guy I won’t name – but it nearly rhymes with horrid rotting paedo-rapist freak!
The other huge issue with Louis’ Scientology Movie is that a better one exists already. Going Clear is the scientology documentary to see.
By comparison Theroux, who barely scratches the surfaces and never comes close to insight, settles on a gimmick where he auditions actors to play Tom Cruise and Scientology’s head Hood, David Miscavige. These jobbing thespians will read out quotes from the evil cult’s nonsense script. It’s slightly amusing in a Michael Moore-of-the-eighties-and-early-nineties kind of way. But it really just highlights that the main focus here was getting Theroux – known for infiltrating cults and befriending the weirdos – to sign on for a doco about scientology. That they can’t really ever get near to the cult much less befriend any of its members (save for a nice simmering tension between Theroux and former Scientologist-cum-whistleblower Marty Rathbun – essentially buddy-cops in this docu-drama) is apparently no issue. The tickets will sell because it’s Louis and Scientology.
It’s not though. It’s Louis mugging and grimacing for the camera and creating silly sequences that are momentarily amusing – he holds his camera out to film the scientologist filming him, both are being filmed by the movie crew of course. But they’re still miles from any compound and nowhere near exposing anything. We already know it’s a deeply stupid, weird, secretive cult. Theroux reminds us again and again across 90 minutes.
He and Dower and BBC have effectively created the BING to Alex Gibney’s Google. His Going Clear does more across its running time than My Scientology Movie could ever be bothered even trying.
Yes the staged sequences of the actors reading aspects from the doctrine are funny and mildly disturbing – but we don’t need reminding of what we already know.