Home Movie Reviews ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ – Review
‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ – Review

‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ – Review


Two-time Academy Award nominee and one of Hollywood’s best actresses, Jessica Chastain gets ready to bring the faith, music and make-up of the extraordinary true life of the famed Tammy Faye Bakker to the big screen in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall, and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain). In the 1970s and ’80s, Tammy Faye and her husband Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield), rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park and were revered for their message of love, acceptance, and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire.

Hollywood star Jessica Chastain joins forces with filmmaker Michael Showalter for a groovy, hip, witty and dramatic true story of faith and love with the extraordinary true-life story of Tammy Faye Bakker. Charting the rise of Tammy Faye from obscurity in the early 1960s to a successful early television career before she and her husband Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) go on to become the pre-eminent American Christian televangelists in the 1970s and 1980s, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is truly something else. It’s a fast-moving, feet-tapping movie that brings a great musical-comedy to the sensational true-life of Tammy Faye, and just when you think this woman’s life couldn’t get more extraordinary, it does. Showalter embraces the faith and style of Tammy Faye in his production and his direction makes for a colourful, yet dramatic character study.

In viewing The Eyes of Tammy Faye I had recollections of comedy-musical classic Grease and Showalter’s attention to detail pulls you in fast. With Chastain as his creative partner, the two craft a very engaging film that touches on the subject matter very few know about and the depth and detail of this movie are incredibly interesting to look at. Taking audiences inside the light and grace of the American evangelical movement and its prominence in the voice of conservative American politics during the Regan era, there’s a lot of story contained in the narrative of The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Showalter gives Chastain the space for her to showcase her considerable acting chops as she fully embraces the character of Tammy Faye, and brings to life the light and joy, trials and tribulations and ultimately the faith of her life.

For Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a truly transformative role and she slips completely into the voice, stance and style of the famed Tammy Faye. Best described as a maximalist in every possible way, complete with a mink coat, voluminous red hair, big lips, bigger eye-liner and a spot on ‘Minnesota Nice’ accent, Tammy Faye Bakker is one of a kind. She’s a woman who stands out amongst the crowd, but she’s neither selfish nor self-involved and this is a woman just being herself, rather than putting on any kind of mask. A natural entertainer in every sense of the word, Tammy Faye loves to perform and bring joy to her audience and will do everything in her power to give them a little bit of her faith.

Chastain shows the full breadth of Tammy Faye as a woman. Always a good Christian girl, she’s someone who needs to give love and receive it with open arms. She’s simply a lover of people and God and you feel in Chastain’s performance a true empathy for those people she’s around. Tammy Faye is also not one to shy away from controversy and in the harsh conservative era of the 1980s, she engages in a dialogue on subjects ranging from sex to LGBT rights to the rise of the AIDs crisis and infidelity. Chastain doesn’t hide anything in her performance of Tammy Faye, and this includes a dangerous and prolonged drug addiction that almost killed her, but which in its aftermath made her stronger as a person. And audiences are treated to Chastain’s incredible signing voice and she can carry a serious note.

Alongside its exploration of Chastain’s Tammy Faye audiences are also introduced to her do-gooding, yet shady husband Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). Starting as a committed evangelical preacher, Jim soon brings a world of sin into his life which lead to a horrific sexual assault scandal and one of America’s biggest ever fraud cases through Bakker’s misappropriation of funds from his ministry PTL. Andrew Garfield brings terrific movement to his performance, starting with a ‘gee-whizz’ kind of good-boy vibe, before turning into a vindictive two-faced villain who will do anything to keep his ministry afloat, no matter how low he has to reach. Joining Garfield as the film’s co-villain is Vincent D’Onofrio as the famed minister and conservative American voice Jerry Falwell, and he’s perfect as the hard-lined conservative who’ll do anything to see his vision of America realized.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye deals with big issues of sincerity, faith and above all things love. It’s the expression and acceptance of love in the film that is its most dominant theme, and this essential human emotion has a big emphasis on Tammy Faye’s character development throughout the narrative. As a young girl who was born illegitimate and always wanted love from her harsh-tonged mother, Tammy Faye will go to any length to find it, and it’s the dominating force in her life. Her need to feel love and express it guides every action she takes in the film, and you see a woman who truly cares for people, and that’s rare in the judgement-filled world in which she lives and works. Chastain has a clear handling of the narrative’s themes in her performance, and through her, they make this movie so special to watch.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a picture that is sure to move and entertain you. It’s packed together with music, light and fun and is a portrait of an extraordinary woman. You can’t help but feel moved by its narrative and it’s one of the best times you’ll have at the movies all year.

Image: 20th Century Studios