4 Stars Movies

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

It seems worth mentioning that anyone’s opinion of a biopic will definitely depend a lot on how well that person knows the source material. The more one knows, the higher the expectations.

To put it candidly, I knew virtually nothing of Tammy Faye Baker, other that she, along with her husband, was one of the more popular televangelists of the 1970s and 1980s (just before my time). At many points of The Eyes of Tammy Faye (based off of a documentary from 2000 of the same name), I realized they were the reason I would see other televangelists as a kid when I would be flipping through channels early Sunday mornings (paving the way for the likes of Joel Osteen).

Like many a biopic, The Eyes of Tammy Faye shows its subject witnessing flashback, as a young Tammy is unable to join her church congregation. Since her parents were divorced, it would be blasphemy (I guess) for her to be at service, even as her mother (Cherry Jones) is allowed to (“I’m the only one who can play the piano.”) This does not stop Tammy from following God, and we see her as an adult (more on the Jessica Chastain performance in a bit) falling for the likes of her future husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). They soon dive into what will be a career (so to speak) of spreading the word of God on the tube, while encountering other notables such as Jimmy Swaggert (Jay Huguley) and Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio).

Much of this is what is referred to as the “prosperity gospel” (here is a link to what wiki defines it as), which, the best I can call it is “questionable.” While I mentioned I am not the expert on the source material, it does not take much to see how “off” it seems when the Bakkers are asking for donations, only to see the flamboyant life style they live in (enough to garner sure nominations for Best Costume Design and Make-up).

On the topic of award consideration, there is no question that Jessica Chastain will be in the conversation for Best Actress. The performance by Garfield is good for sure, but the film both depends and revolves entirely on the Chastain performance, and it lives up to the hype. Even if you have not seen a video of the real Tammy Faye, you can tell Chastain is far beyond the level of just an impersonation. You can see how confused she looks when she realizes she is sympathizing with members of the LGBTQ community (mainly with the scene where she interviews an AIDS patient). Chastain may not win the award, but there better be a dog gone good reason for her not being nominated.

Parents, the movie is a relatively light PG-13. There is very little swearing, though the movie does have some sexual content (no nudity). I would say middle school and above.

The movie does seem to drag at times (despite being only a little over two hours), but director Michael Showalter still is rather gifted when it comes to the concept of “dramady” (he recently did 2017’s The Big Sick). Still, there is no doubt you can see Chastain has thrown herself into the race for Best Actress.

You might say you can even see it in her eyes.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

2 replies on “The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)”

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