Director: Michael Showalter
Writer: Abe Sylvia
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, and Vincent D’Onofrio
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is based on the documentary of the same name and tells the true story of Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) who was an American evangelist. The film follows her life from childhood until the mid-1990s, focusing mostly on the period that she was in a relationship with Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). The couple created The PTL Club, which was their biggest successful, and led to their downfall amongst big scandals.
Starting this film as someone who wasn’t even born when The PTL Club was at its height, not having heard of either Tammy Faye or Jim Bakker, this film still works. It tells an interesting story and does a good job at summarising who Tammy Faye was, as well as her story. It makes you feel like you know her, understand why she had a following, and genuinely feel for her throughout her journey.
Jessica Chastain delivers an incredible performance as Tammy, which won her a well-deserved Oscar. Her performance manages to show a complex person, and show the many sides of her. You don’t at any point, just feel sorry for her for what’s happened, or anger at how she and her husband frauded people for their own gain. There’s more layers to it than that, and her performance captures the complexity and is completely captivating the whole time. Andrew Garfield also brings his best as Jim Bakker, and the pair together are excellent. Watching their relationship blossom, and crumble is fascinating to watch. The make-up on both of the leads is great, and seeing pictures of the real Tammy Faye side-by-side as the credits starts to roll really show how great of a job they did.
As the film is only two hours long, and covers around three decades of events, it does feel like a lot of things are skipped over. Pretty much all of the 1970s is over in a blink of the eyes, and the main focus on the film is their rise in the mid 60s, followed by their eventual decline in the 80s. It manages to hit the main points, but you still feel like there’s something missing. The film does a good job of keeping you in the loop, but at points things change and you just have to go along with it. Perhaps a mini-series with more time for each era would have been better, or maybe that would have dragged it out too much.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a pretty great biopic. Even if you don’t know anything about its subjects, like I don’t, it still completely transfixes you on the screen. It’s very entertaining and fascinating to watch.
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