“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” Review: Falling from Grace, Entertainment News


If you were watching television in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s – the old tri-network era that now feels as distant as the era of the horse and buggy – you could hardly miss Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Upbeat evangelists with the Upper Midwest in their voices, they helped expand Christian outreach from niche to empire through their PTL satellite network.

Even if you missed them in their prime, you couldn’t avoid the spectacle of their downfall – a late ’80s tabloid scandal involving adultery, hypocrisy, and financial shenanigans. In 1989 Jim Bakker was convicted of fraud and sentenced to federal prison. His wife (who was divorced a few years later) has been shaved by talk show hosts and stand-up comedians across the country for her garish makeup, long hair, and full-throated singing voice.
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” directed by Michael Showalter from a screenplay by Abe Sylvia, tells this story conscientiously, following the familiar biopic sequence of the showbiz of ascension, ruin and redemption. We start in Minnesota in the Eisenhower era, where Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) grows up in the shadow of a pious, unsmiling mother (Cherry Jones). When she meets Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) in Bible College, it feels like a providential match.
Jim preaches a version of the prosperity gospel, telling his flock that God wants them to be rich. This optimism and the worldly ambition that goes with it seduces Tammy. A natural performer on stage (and later, on camera), she brings motherly warmth, healthy sex appeal and relentless good humor to their itinerant ministry. And puppets too.

Showalter’s film shares its title and plot with a 2000 documentary by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, and also sympathy for its subject matter. Tammy Faye (deceased 2007) may have been a disproportionate spendthrift and exhausting media personality, but she was also, these films insist, sincere in her faith and generous in her outlook on humanity. Unlike revs. Her husband’s powerful allies Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Pat Robertson (Gabriel Olds), she resisted the mixture of religion and politics, and challenged their anti-feminist, anti-gay, cultural-war ideology.
The documentary version, which includes voiceover narration from RuPaul, features Tammy Faye as a figure of the camp, gaining both sympathy and ridicule, and emerging with some dignity intact. Showalter and his actors lack style and nerve to convey either the savagery of the character and his background, or the pathos of his story.

The narrative rhythms – Tammy Faye’s temptation (in the presence of a muscular record producer played by Mark Wystrach), Jim’s betrayal, Falwell’s betrayal – seem almost generic. The performances, although not very subtle, seem smaller than life. Garfield mugs and emotes with a sketch-comedy abandonment, and as Chastain tries to get more depth and nuance, she’s trapped in a literal-minded script and overwhelmed by hair, makeup, and costumes. screaming era.
The Bakkers were a lot to a lot of people: dreadful, inspiring, laughable, sad. This film succeeds in making them dull.


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