Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie: Film Review
Cast: Louis Theroux, Marty Rathbun, The Church of Scientology
Director: John Dower
It's easy to see why Louis Theroux was pulled into the world of Scientology.
His career's been built on the quirky, with the MO of giving those enough rope with which to hang themselves. Theroux's entire back catalogue of interviews show him as non-confrontational, naive to the point of annoying and simply content to let the subjects do the talking with the occasional prodding.
His technique belies his intelligence, but often demonstrates his adroitness at shedding more light on things than a traditional interview would do.
But in the case of Scientology (a cult so marvellously indicted by Alex Gibney's wonderful Going Clear doco), Theroux finds himself thwarted from the start and given no access to anyone within the church, leading him to the quandary of how you build a doco with no subject matter?
Despite throwing a genuine request online to see if any Scientologists would get in touch, Theroux is told to prepare for the loonies and to batten down the hatches. His goal is altruistic - to see the Church in a more positive light as opposed to the increasing lunatic fringe front that's portrayed in general media.
Recruiting former Scientologist Marty Rathbun to the cause, Theroux decides the way to illustrate the Church's edges is to get actors to play the roles of Tom Cruise and church leader David Miscavige and sets about auditioning them. It's a clever touch rather than simply relying on archive footage, and when it appears one of the actors must be in league with the church, Theroux begins to feel the tendrils of the Church tracking him (equally, with a humorous visit from actress Paz De La Huerta, whom Theroux labels a "honey trap").
It's in these moments that Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie starts to come to life; with a defter lighter touch to proceedings and the trademark Theroux wit adding a great deal. Because at the end of the day, Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie is a very unfulfilling piece, due simply to the fact he has no real access to those in the upper echelons of the Church - and the film very much suffers because of a lack of them.
More interesting though is the relationship that Theroux and Rathbun cultivate; it's one of unease and in this way, Theroux has gained his greatest insight into the church's machinations and workings.
But there's never a real sense of a killer blow against the Church or its methodology.
This is a doco that feels like it wants to poke and provoke the fires of outrage and runs away when anything greater than a spark grows. It's a frivolous frippery of a film that wants to rattle the Church's leader but ends up feeling more like a Miscavage of Justice rather than a damnation of what goes on behind the walls.