An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.
But Faith is in The Eyes of Tammy Faye-not just a biopic full of secular missteps but also smart, sympathetic, light-hearted, poignant, and the best female performance of the year. This is from someone who thought Jennifer Hudson in Respect could not be bested.
As Tammy Faye Bakker, Chastain (also a producer) stakes out the dramatic territory of resembling the star-crossed televangelist and giving a nuanced performance, including commendable singing, that could make you want to see both Tammy and Jessica again in another completely different drama. You could also want to see a less innocent Tammy if you remember her blind eye for her husband's manifold indiscretions and corruptions.
Forget the makeup, which is remarkable by the way, and just enjoy the masterful depiction of an American classic woman-a star rising to the top at a time when television itself was rising in prominence (beaming shows with a satellite was practically a new weapon). She became a star asserting her talent when men tried to refuse her talent, a woman who rebelled against being left alone while her husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield-playing a smarmy wimp) took the glory and money. Also, a woman who had blind faith in God and mammon at the same time.
Director Michael Showalter, clearly sympathetic to Tammy, deftly takes the complicated soul from wide-eyed innocent to a wayward but still naive adult whose increasingly-gaudy makeup paralleled her fall from grace. Tammy and Jim's descent, ending in his going to prison for fraud and her losing her beloved television presence and Heritage USA theme park, is an accurate depiction of pride's and wealth's inevitable toll.
Besides Chastain's memorable performance of a talented woman determined to be more than just a trophy, Eyes is a docudrama chock-full of issues like gay love, male impotence, social repression, and most of all, the morphing of religion into entertainment.
Allied to these sinful markers is the couple's acknowledgement that wealth is ok to be pursued, even if you preach Christian charity. That Tammy and Jim built in the '70's and '80's the largest TV ministry, the PTL Network, would have been a remarkable feat except for the sinful ways they flourished.
As Chastain plays her, Tammy barely knew the shenanigans Jim and his buds, like Jerry Falwell, devised to milk their worshipers for wealth and real-estate empires. The Eyes of Tammy Faye is not just an historical docudrama; it is a fitting chronicle of the misalignment of church and state and the corruptions of success.
Eyes is a messy Greek tragedy of sin and redemption that won't let you take your eyes off it. Especially if you see it on the big screen.
- Sep 25, 2021