the eyes of tammy faye
director: michael showalter (the lovebirds)
starring: jessica chastain, andrew garfield, cherry jones, and vincent d'onofrio
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a biographical drama directed by Michael Showalter (The Big Sick, Search Party), based on the 2000 documentary of the same name and stars an unrecognizable Jessica Chastain in a mesmerizing performance as Tammy Faye Bakker, with strong support from Andrew Garfield as her charismatic and ambitious televangelist husband Jim Bakker.
Tammy Faye is an exploration of Tammy's life, from her humble beginnings to her and her husband’s ambitious, upstart approach to American evangelical Christian ministry in their early years. This led to the development of the PTL television network in the 1970s and even a Christian themed water park. However, scandal both self-imposed and encouraged by rivals would humble the couple deeply and dramatically topple their empire.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye illustrates well the drive the couple surely had from the start of their relationship, ultimately leading to a proclivity for lavishnesses and misrepresentations towards their viewers. The script tests the increasing surrealness of the couple’s growing opulence with Tammy Faye’s perpetually suspicious mother, played by a wonderfully dry Cherry Jones.
Jessica Chastain is seriously impressive in Tammy Faye, her portrayal really conveys the effect of opulence upon a good heart. Her character’s weaknesses serve to mollify misgivings, despite an honest intention to do good. Chastain so effectively conveys this doublethink, that you find yourself feeling bad for her Tammy, how swept up in the life of a successful Televangelist she was, and ultimately how brutal her fall was.
Andrew Garfield complements Chastain perfectly, with a portrayal of Jim Bakker that really helps give context to how the Bakkers managed to somewhat reconcile any opposition between their personal ambition and the nature of genuine Christian ministry work.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye features an engrossing lead performance by Jessica Chastain, and explores the lives of the Bakkers in an interesting fashion, utilizing touches of satire to address the surrealism of the world they built for themselves.