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The Eyes of Tammy Faye ★★★★



Director: Michael Showalter

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sam Jaeger, Cherry Jones, Gabriel Olds, Fredric Lehne, Louis Cancelmi, Mark Wystrach

Release: February 4, 2022 (UK)

Televangelism is something that we on this side of the pond may not be overly familiar with, but damn, the grandiose sense of it all seems a bit curious. The big churches with windows larger than most British houses, the hordes of churchgoers, and the pastors’ glamour. It all seems strange to some, but it has a darker side. Tammy Faye’s name may not jump to mind, but her story is quite the journey.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye takes an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield), rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park and were revered for their message of love, acceptance and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, idiosyncratic singing, her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is quite the deep dive into the world of Televangelism. While I wasn’t overly aware of her story, it’s sharply executed and compelling. Michael Showalter tells this tale through a personal perspective that eventually unfurls the ugly side of greed, deceit and faith. Each period of Tammy Faye’s life is captured so candidly to the point you feel that you are living inside a soap opera. The soft lighting and overdramatic approach fit the initial stages of Faye’s story so well. As you slowly realise not everything is as it seems, you soon sense how cold and hollow the world of Tammy Faye truly is.

Showalter doesn’t shy away from Tammy Faye’s demons like her addiction to Diet Coke and pills. He never makes these apparent issues, but the more you observe her, you soon realise she is a tormented soul. To be the beacon of the church has its perks but what it has done to her psychologically cuts deep. Behind those famous eyelashes and make-up is a human being, and Showalter wants his audience to realise that. There is quite a lot of humour within this, but this compelling portrayal of a human being is what makes it so memorable.

For Jessica Chastain & Andrew Garfield, behind the heavy prosthetics are two complex characters that balance each other out. Chastain carries a lot of the emotional weight and probably her finest role to date. Chastain’s commitment to the role is profound and has the weight of Tammy Faye’s soul from start to finish. Andrew Garfield yet again delivers another stellar performance as Jim Bakker. The higher Tammy Faye’s star rose, Jim went further to the dark side. Behind the cheerful facade of Garfield is another densely perplexing aura. The toxicity of their pursuit of wealth and faith is so fascinating.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a film that needs to be seen to be believed. Like any classic real-life dramatisation, it has it all, and like any regular person, we love a bit of drama if it doesn’t revolve around us.

Lover of all things indie and foreign language. Can be found rambling on YouTube at times!

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