Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Looking for a (slightly) positive view of Scientology? Try Jeffry Peixoto's documentary, OVER THE RAINBOW

This new film opens with a fascinating tale -- via an experimental psychologist (shown two photos below) who tells us about experiments done at Harvard Medical School -- regarding events real or imagined, such as alien abduction or wartime PTSD, that proved to be simultaneously the most negative and positive thing that had occurred in the participant's life.

The speaker then goes on to compare this to Bertolt Brecht's play Galileo, along with the connection between religion and the individual's need to feel "special."

So thought-provoking and on-the-mark is what we hear at the start of this film that you may feel that you've been set up for something quite unusual to follow. TrustMovies certainly did.

All the more disappointing, then, to soon learn that OVER THE RAINBOW is a kind of paean to (or maybe apology for) the "religion" of Scientology. That's right. Oh, well: We have already had a number of documentaries slamming this cult, so why not make room for one that tries to show it in a good light?

I am guessing that this is what the film's director, newcomer Jeffrey Peixoto (shown at right), is trying to accomplish, though he has taken a rather bizarre route to do it.

After that short initial but riveting interview, we meet a bunch of odd and diverse folk, evidently current (maybe some of them hopefully lapsed) Scientologists who talk about this and that but often don't make a whole lot of sense (perhaps you'd have to be a Scientologist to understand fully), as we hop, skip and jump from subject to subject to subject, while growing ever more annoyed.

We learn during the end credits that Mr. Peixoto has dedicated his film to his parents. Are they perhaps Scientologists who he is trying his best to please? I don't know, but this would be at least some excuse for this poorly put-together documentary that introduces us to everyone from an art dealer (above) for the late, popular but not-so-great artist, Thomas Kinkade, to a young Scientologist with daddy issues (below) to another young woman who was physically abused so badly by her "counselor" that she had bruises and hand-prints all over her ass. Ah, religion!  Even fake ones like this!

Along the way we get a child's rendition of the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard that sounded to me suspiciously like -- in jaunty tone and apocryphal "facts" -- what I learned as a kid about Mary Baker Eddy, the "discoverer and founder" of Christian Science, the nutcase religion in which I was raised. (Some of the reminiscences here may put you in mind of Paul Thomas Anderson's fictional take on a cult leader, The Master.)

By the time the film gets around to masturbation as its subject, you'll probably have pricked up your ears. What the speaker tells us about the pleasures of Onan vis-à-vis Scientology proves pretty strange -- and funny, too. One of the oddest things about this documentary is that so much that these speakers tell us, which they seem to see as positive, instead comes across as negative. (Unless this is, of course, all and only being perceived via the 'ear of the listener'?)

In any case, literally everything we see and hear in the film is anecdotal, without a shred of what one might call evidence being presented. My favorite moment comes as one of those Kinkade art dealers explains that, regarding L. Ron Hubbard's would-be vast knowledge, Scientology is actually the first "religion-by-electricity." In which case, I guess, we should all hope for a power outage.

From 1091 and running 73 minutes, Over the Rainbow hits digital and VOD today, Tuesday, March 3, for purchase and/or rental.

No comments: