The Eyes of Tammy Faye – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Michael Showalter
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio
In cinemas February 4th
This biographical drama is based on the 2000 documentary of the same name about the televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker which was narrated by none other than RuPaul. Tammy Faye (played here by Chastain in an Oscar-nominated performance) may not be hugely familiar to audiences in Europe but was a massive star in the US. She and her husband Jim (Garfield) made an extremely lucrative living spreading the word of the Lord through their television shows. Unfortunately, in the late 80s, Jim found himself at the centre of numerous sexual scandals before being jailed for fraud bringing their professional and personal partnership to an end.
This follows the pair from their first meeting up to Jim’s fall from grace. It’s a story full of highs, lows and downright bonkers moments. However, it feels like (director) Showalter is never quite sure what the focus of the story is. Nothing is highlighted as if he is painting by numbers. For example, one of the reasons Tammy became so beloved was because of her acceptance of AIDS patients in the 80s when the church (and indeed most of America) held negative attitudes towards the disease. However, here it is treated as just another element of the story and given very little fanfare.
If it wasn’t for a mesmerising central performance from Chastain this would quickly begin to drag. Garfield does a good job as Bakker and he and Chastain have great chemistry but his character is written as somewhat of a cliché as are most of the others. Overall this suffers from a somewhat turgid script and its two-hour running time does feel far longer.
As an insight into the life of Tammy Faye, this falls short of the documentary which is a far superior film. It’s amazing that Showalter has managed to make something so unremarkable out of such a remarkable subject. Without the star power of the cast, this would probably have gone straight to a streamer.