Written by: Abe Sylvia
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Fredric Lehne, Louis Cancelmi
No matter the message, the profession, or the individual involved, access to an exorbitant amount of money leaves those with it within their hands in perilous danger of mishandling it. A story told time and time again, but when it comes from so-called religious leaders utilizing the funds of those giving for what is perceived as a worthy cause, it leaves a different taste in the mouth. The Eyes of Tammy Faye understands this very well as it dives into two religious figures and what ultimately brings them down.
From her very youth, Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) knew she had a special connection with her God, which has led her to meet her future husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). Together they create a congregation worth millions, but as the pot continues to grow, the more the indiscretions of their decisions reach the public spotlight.
Capturing the rise and fall of public figures make for a decent percentage of biopics usually containing the same message of money and power having the distinct ability to corrupt. Whether it be explicitly done by someone like Jim or through the mere complicity of living a very comfortable life as seen through Tammy. It all comes out the same way, but each new biopic of this ilk provides more insight into the subjects than what usually gets depicted in the public and this feature allows for quite the look inside the televangelist world.
Not only did Tammy and Jim have a fervor to spread the word of the Lord, but they had a natural talent for presenting it all in a digestible manner on television. For Tammy, this worked very well for children as she used puppets and songs in order to teach about her religion. It thus made sense why their programs would earn so much notoriety, and as a result, brought in so much money for their congregation. Whether this film lands too nicely on Tammy’s role in what would later ensue, the fact remains, that this woman loved the work that she did but also very much enjoyed the lifestyle it afforded her.
Thus this feature gives an insight into the political machinations working behind the scenes as well, which introduces some figures who have lived in infamy for doing similar things to what Jim and Tammy have done. It allows for some intriguing conversations between the groups and especially in the way Tammy stood out from all of them not only as a woman but also as someone far more open to accepting others than the men around her.
One of the larger moments of this feature consists of Tammy speaking with a man suffering from AIDs and essentially legitimizing someone from the LGBTQ+ community, which feels radical now for that particular religion and must have been something else in that time. A momentous moment in the feature and one that shows exactly what Jessica Chastain saw so appealing in this role and why she felt the need to tell the story of this woman, even despite the flaring faults she may have held. With this being the performance Chastain finally won her Academy Award for, it absolutely makes sense. Not only through the extensive makeup work and all the range Chastain has to show, but she also manages to capture the kindness behind all of the nonsense occurring with Tammy. Yes, very much an imperfect person, but someone who from the beginning had an itching to spread the word of her God and genuinely cared for people. Did she turn a blind eye to some shady financial practices that heavily benefitted the lifestyle she wanted to live? Yes, that’s certainly something that can be agreed upon. Far from Chastain’s best performance but still good work by the always-great actor.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye does nothing to break any molds or leave a lasting impact with its format and filmmaking style. It hits all the notes one would expect but it certainly allows Jessica Chastain to feast on a role designed to get her a golden statue and it worked. The film highlights the corruption central to much of the rich and powerful with the Christian evangelist faith even to the point where they defraud the very people they were originally called to help shepherd to their lord. Equally satisfying and sad are the turns they take in their lives, but it’s the way the cookie crumbled.