As one of the great documentarians working today, Louis Theroux finally makes the leap and presents his very first feature to be released cinematically. Discernibly entitled My Scientology Movie, one of the film’s greatest misgivings is to follow Alex Gibney’s Going Clear, a comprehensive overview of the Church of Scientology, teaching us so much about religion right from its conception to the present day, that Theroux’s offering seems somewhat superfluous; not adding enough to the conversation.
Situated in America, Theroux makes several requests to gain access to members of the Church and is denied consistently, so in a bid to get their attention, he hires a troupe of actors and reenacts alleged events, with performers playing contentious leader David Miscavige and even Hollywood star Tom Cruise. The Church aren’t happy, so fight fire with fire, and start making a film about Theroux making his film. With former executive Marty Rathbun by his side, Louis vies tirelessly to get some answers from an organisation that do not like fielding questions.
Theroux has enlarged this picture to suit the silver screen with a minimum contrivance, feeling bigger, with a glorious cinematography enforcing this notion. But it’s the choice of subject matter which jars, for they give Theroux such limited access, if at all, that it just doesn’t make for very informative cinema. Though the Church’s reluctance and elusive nature needs to be seen, to turn the lack of actual journalism into the film’s selling point has been clever, but not quite satisfying enough. Theroux is an exemplary interviewer, his understated and unassuming demeanour manages to ensure he gathers information from people even they had never intended to let out, but in this instance he’s not given the access to work his magic.
What transpires is a film that is undoubtedly entertaining, but that’s really about it; not investigative, nor educational enough. On the telly that wouldn’t be a problem, this is more than acceptable evening time viewing in the comfort of your own home – but when released theatrically, meaning punters must travel, and pay (too much) for a ticket, expectations are raised accordingly, and regrettably they’re expectations not quite met.