“An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.” -IMDB
Oh boy. If there is one group of people it has always been difficult for me to have empathy for, it has been televangelists. It may seem like a very specific group, but I grew up in the glory days of the 700 Club and the broadening of cable which allowed for televangelists to come out of the woodwork. I won’t go too far into my issues with this group, but they shouldn’t be too difficult to guess at.
So, when I started watching The Eyes of Tammy Faye, I had no intention of liking any of the characters. However, by the end of the movie, I found myself rooting for the (admittedly) ridiculous Tammy Faye as much as anyone. Let me clarify…
This film follows Tammy Faye and her first husband, Jim, as they build a tremendous audience on the basis of salvation (followed by tremendous wealth, paid for by those followers). However, as with most biopics, the star must fall and Tammy Faye and Jim’s fall from grace is spectacular.
I found this film to be a particularly fun watch, one that did not take itself too seriously but still found moments of truth and emotional rawness. There were two elements that particularly stood out to me. The first is Jessica Chastain’s performance. She seemed to be having a helluva (that’s right, helluva) time making this movie and seemed to take the responsibility of portraying Tammy Faye seriously, as her performance was layered and loving. The second was the way in which the filmmakers, including Chastain, chose to tell Faye’s story. While her eccentricities were well documented, the film never seemed to mock Faye. Instead, it brought her nuance to the wild ride that was her life and left you with a better understanding of both her flaws and her virtues.
Honestly, I’m pretty happy with the trend of biopics being a bit more lighthearted. There is no need to canonize the legacy of figures who are not so far removed from the collective consciousness. And that’s what I ultimately appreciated with this film, it wasn’t overwrought. Those who remember Tammy Faye will likely be glad to see some of her more notorious moments highlighted in the movie, but they will also hopefully walk away with a better understanding of the experiences, the emotions, and the life of its titular character.
Rating: 7 out 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also watch: Being the Ricardos, Spencer
Streaming: HBO Max
With: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio
Directed By: Michael Showalter