"The Eyes of Tammy Faye" stars Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, and Vincent D'Onofrio. Released on September 17, 2021, the film depicts the rise and fall of Tammy Faye Bakker and Jim Bakker.
The film was directed by Michael Showalter, who also directed films such as "The Baxter", "The Big Sick", and "The Lovebirds". It is based on the 2000 documentary of the same name by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Well, this is something that's worth preaching about. How could something that brought joy and belief to the Christian audience wound up falling from the clouds and ruining the original hosts' careers? With a scandal or two, of course. What else would it be? This latest biographical drama sees Michael Showalter heading into fact-based filmmaking territory as he explores the controversy that ended Tammy Faye's career as a televangelist. You're probably wondering why it took me this long to review this film. Well, when I had so much stuff on my plate and plenty of other movies to check out, things like that tend to happen. But all that matters is that I found the right time to watch this latest awards contender. Was this scandal engaging enough to compete against the other upcoming Oscar potential films? Let's find out.
The story chronicles the life and career of Tammy Faye Bakker (Chastain). Along with her husband Jim Bakker (Garfield), she found "The PTL Club", a televangelist news program that combines entertainment with Christianity. It proved to be a success for its target audience, but Tammy's struggling relationship with Jim and financial issues threatened to shut the program down for good. This is one of those stories that I was unfamiliar with until they made films about them. I've never watched "The PTL Club", and I've certainly never heard of its hosts, Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. Well, not until I did some research and watched the film, of course. There's nothing more absorbing than discovering celebrities and events that never caught people's eyes, whether it's by looking it up online or watching it on the screen. It's a trend that allows the audience to learn more about these subjects, and "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" easily fits into that description. But does that make the film worth everyone's time and money? Well, almost. Michael Showalter provided an enjoyably engaging biopic drama that's as glitzy and peppy as its charismatic host. However, compared to the director's other works, this one was a bit too preachy for its own good. The film easily took several pages right out of similar rise-and-fall biopics, and the emotional core of the scenario was effortful yet disappointingly tame. It also suffered a bit from its two-hour-plus runtime, which made it feel a bit longer than it should. It's a far cry from the other films that handled these elements better. Fortunately, it compensated by offering a stellar showcase for the talented people onscreen and an intriguing depiction of Christianity and beliefs in the television business. Jessica Chastain proved herself to be one of the actresses worth rooting for this awards season. She brilliantly manifested the glamorous personality traits of Tammy Faye, both physically and mentally. More importantly, she didn't hold back on displaying a more personal side to the famous televangelist. Andrew Garfield also did an outstanding job with his appealing performance as Jim Bakker. I haven't watched this actor in anything since "Hacksaw Ridge" five years ago, and seeing him in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" showed that I hadn't missed much. Cherry Jones and Vincent D'Onofrio were also solid in their roles as Rachel LaValley and Jerry Falwell, respectively. I would also give this film credit for the makeup and hair design, which should get more attention this year. The artists behind those designs deserve a round of applause and plenty of blessings for transforming Chastain and Garfield into the real-life Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. The perfect casting for the main leads also helped create an illusion that makes them look like the actual people they're portraying. It goes to show how important each role is in delivering movie magic, especially the makeup department.
Overall, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" means well, but it falls short of preaching to the choir. While it answered our prayers with its superb cast and makeup design, its formulaic script and troubling execution towards the emotion kept it from making a believer out of itself. It's one of the films that had good intentions regarding their topics yet struggled to make them worthwhile. If you're highly familiar with Tammy Faye and enjoyed the two main leads in their other works, I would say the film is worth a watch for their performances and its subject matter alone.