My Scientology Movie (2017)
Directed by John Dower
With an approach as kooky as its subject, BBC reporter Louis Theroux’s “My Scientology Movie” bounces around a lot, frequently losing focuses and failing to stay on topic as it attempts to lift the veil on the money-sucking, brain-washing cult machinery that makes up the “Church” of Scientology. It’s interesting for as long as it stays on topic, but with weird off-topic ventures like showing us the casting process as they try to pick a young actor to portray Tom Cruise (they end up hardly using him, anyway), “My Scientology Movie” (a fitting title, but hardly a good sales pitch…it’s a reminder that Theroux isn’t the first to tackle the topic) wastes a good deal of its short-enough-as-it-is 99 minutes for uninteresting side gags.
Theroux finds a sidekick in Marty Rathbun, a notorious Scientology defector who had risen to the near-top of the food chain before fleeing. Of course, the Church says he’s an embittered castaway whom nobody liked even while he was there. It’s an expected rebuke of someone who is exposing many of the church’s worst practices—but throughout the movie, the audience and Theroux both begin to question whether there might be truth there, as other Church defectors tell of Rathbun’s compliance with many of the Church’s bad habits (like physically assaulting defectors or having them stalked constantly for years, even decades after they leave—which we see with Rathbun himself, who’s approached multiple times by people sent to harass him). In the end, “My Scientology Movie” throws away its shot to offer any new information or make any major discoveries. As can be expected, the Church will do anything it can to hamper an attempt at uncovering its demons. Sucks for Louis Theroux’s documentary aspirations. Sucks more for an audience hoping to learn much from “My Scientology Movie.”