The Eyes Of Tammy Faye Review

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Tammy (Jessica Chastain) is an idealistic young Christian who has big, new ideas of how to minister to the faithful. She finds her match in Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield), and together the pair build a huge televangelism career — but their foundations are shakier than they look.

by Helen O'Hara |
Published on
Release Date:

04 Feb 2022

Original Title:

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye (2022)

There’s a lot to be said about the extraordinary world of televangelism, and this biopic of Tammy Faye Bakker, one of its leading lights in the 1970s and 1980s, goes some way to interrogating the glitz, glitter and grungy reality behind the ministering. If it can’t quite get under the skin of the woman herself, it at least captures the bizarre role Bakker played in popular Christianity and the unlikely arc of her career.

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye

Tammy (Jessica Chastain, under an increasingly elaborate series of wigs and prosthetics) is a bubbly young idealist when she meets Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield, solid as ever) at Bible college. The pair impulsively marry, which gets them kicked out of college and sets them off as travelling preachers. Soon they’re rising through the ranks of televangelism thanks to strokes of good fortune and, of course, God’s plan for them as they see it. But as the scale of their operations gets bigger and Jim starts taking financial shortcuts, their empire is put at risk.

It’s handsomely made, but can’t quite explain where her endless optimism came from and why we should cheer for her recovery.

This is based on the 2000 documentary of the same name by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, and both films lean into the campness of Tammy’s appearance and her larger-than-life personality. She did some commendable things — she was a rare televangelist who actively embraced the LGBT+ community and reached out to AIDS patients at the height of that epidemic — but she also turned a wilfully blind eye to her distant husband’s corruption and, in this account, assisted him in winning over investors.

Chastain does her best to show Tammy’s warm heart, her considerable contributions to the movement and her growing agony at her husband’s failings, but the woman still essentially defrauds the public so she can dress in furs, and the film never quite reckons with her own guilt. It’s handsomely made — director Michael Showalter effectively warms the palette into golds and reds as Tammy and Jim get to work and dials the colour back down after their disgrace — but can’t quite explain where her endless optimism came from and why we should cheer for her recovery from a bad marriage and public disgrace.

It's an impressive performance from Chastain and a fascinating subject, but the film doesn’t delve deep enough into Bakker’s inner life.

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