As its title suggests, Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie stands apart from the kind of factually-rigorous, formally-bland hatchet job that was Going Clear by centring itself on Louis himself. Louis’ modus operandi, for those who are unaware (eg David Ehrlich, who wrote an astoundingly ill-informed review of this film), is to insert himself into unconventional scenarios and peel back the truth – or an approximation of it – by asking questions that are at once endearingly engaged and maliciously mocking.
I believe Theroux when he says he wants to make a different kind of Scientology movie; a sympathetic Scientology movie. But the Church of Scientology doesn’t believe him, which stymies his entire open-faced approach. Instead, Louis is forced to resort to familiar stock footage, familiar interviewees (like ex-Scientologist Marty Rathburn) and familiar stunts, like staging re-enactments of controversial events in Scientology history.
Where My Scientology Movie really works is in its own self-doubt, as it questions the motivations of Rathburn as Louis attempts to offer up a more journalistic, less vindictive take on its widely-derided subject. But it feels more like an attempt to make a documentary than an actual documentary. It’s unique and interesting, but really only for diehard Theroux fans.