My Scientology Movie review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
My Scientology Movie is a strange concoction of a movie. Strange in the sense of being half satire and comedy that entertains and another half that tries hardly and fails to provide some insight behind closed doors of its Scientology members and their practicing doctrine. Still, John Dower’s piece where he acts both as director and writer (along with Louis Theroux) is not made in vain: he probes, questions and researches this modern cult using tactics that entertain all throughout My Scientology Movie’s running time of 99 minutes total.
When one sees the word ‘documentary’ slapped onto a certain feature, it’s clear that that someone will have indubitable expectations previous to watching said feature. And My Scientology Movie fulfills perfectly this criterion, but also adds new flavor by satirizing an organization which we all came to know and laugh at. In that regard, Dower’s film comes more as an exercise in mocking the ‘other side’ before it can be called anything else. And its mocking grows weary in the movie’s final third.
Most (successful) documentaries usually go in without pre-conceived narrative structure and let the flow of their subject to develop in a natural and provocative way. Not scribe Theroux though. He starts with an agenda, and as soon as he’s blocked from accessing the organization, he immediately resorts to fictional means by which he holds an audition for actors to play various roles within this cult. One of which is David Miscavige, and the other, well, you probably know Tom Cruise’s unsuccessful venture within the church of Scientology by now.
From here onward, the film devolves into what COULD’VE been, instead of what IS. Yes, the film delves into a lesser known archive digging up some Scientology recruitment videos, but unfortunately, without a final point to be made.
Furthermore, when you have your screenwriter become the star of the show, you just know something’s not quite right. Louis Theroux runs around and tries to infiltrate the organization he’s so fond in revealing its dark secrets – only to be stopped by a wire fence and cameras that detect his movement. He then proceeds to extrapolate that this organization has something to hide. You don’t say, Sherlock.
My Scientology Movie is by no means a failed attempt of revealing all misdeeds done by the church of Scientology, a rather new phenomenon that took parts of America by storm. But it’s also not a ‘true’ documentary in all sense of the word. As much comedy as it comes out of it, for instance when two cameras point to each other in a detective manner, Dower and Theroux’s feature falls short on several fronts – similar to how Michael Moore’s documentaries usually play out in the end.
And just like Moore, My Scientology Movie does entertain, but by no means document anything we already didn’t know.