Early in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, her mother chides her, “if you follow blindly, in the end, all you are is blind.” Based upon a 2000 documentary, History vs Hollywood rates the movie mostly true. Certainly, for those who don’t follow televangelism, the film is “eye-opening.” Actual TV footage covering the Jim Bakker scandal begins and ends the film to great effectiveness. Speaking of scandal, one can find lots of parallels to Impeachment. First, I’ll call this Imprisonment, young Tammy Faye reminds of naive Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp becomes Jerry Falwell, and sex brings down Jim Bakker as it nearly did Bill Clinton.
How much did Jessica Chastain want the role of Tammy Faye? She bought the rights back in 2012. As a producer, she has every right to hype the film. As a reviewer, I think this may be her best work as an actress. She has two Oscar nominations for The Help and Zero Dark Thirty and Golden Globe nominations for Miss Sloane and Molly’s Game. Still, the cadence, the high pitched voice, and the mannerisms of Tammy Faye are so precise. Given the topic, this is not the type movie that tends to get Best Actress nominations. Then again, Tammy Faye’s support of the gay community when it was unpopular may garner Chastain some attention. I give The Eyes of Tammy Faye 3.5 Gavels and it receives a 67% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 7.1/10 IMDb score. There, we all “see” it the same.
Tammy Faye meets Jim Bakker at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis in 1960. It’s infatuation at first sight. While their traveling ministry founders, they catch the “eye” of Pat Robertson. Her singing and puppets and his The 700 Club eventually lead to their own PTL network. Some 13 million viewers later, the money is rolling in. Unfortunately, it gets spent at a quicker rate. The hounds are at the door. Conservative politicians want their support. Tammy Faye has other ideas. Or, as Jerry Falwell says, “she’s a firecracker.”
Despite all his other work (Hacksaw Ridge, for one), I only see Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. Having little recollection of Jim Bakker, it’s difficult to see how his portrayal could turn PTL into a multimillion dollar organization. Besides Chastain, the best two actors are Vincent D’Onofrio (Death Wish) and Cherry Jones (24, Defending Jacob). As Jerry Falwell and Tammy Faye‘s mother, each is predictable in their unpredictability. So good, you never want them to leave the screen.
But for the fact that Tammy Faye passed away in 2007, one might think this is her effort to whitewash her involvement. Yet, Chastain assures us that, try as she might, she found no evidence of guilt by Tammy Faye. While she lived lavishly, her book and album proceeds donated to PTL would have allowed a fine lifestyle. Chastain believes Tammy Faye was only guilty by association.
“Jones is as formidable as ever, and Vincent D’Onofrio gives a sombre and riveting portrayal of Jerry Falwell, the Baptist Savonarola, who doesn’t hesitate to scythe down the Bakkers for their sins. But this is Chastain’s movie, through and through.” New Yorker
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye gives viewers an absorbing, amusing and provocative chance to rethink yet another train wreck who turned out to be, of all things, human.” Washington Post
Since his release from prison, James Bakker bought back the trademark and logo and relaunched the PTL Network. In 2020, he claimed to be again on the brink of bankruptcy. In June of this year, Bakker and his church agreed to pay $157,000 in restitution for claiming, among other things, that their colloidal silver supplements would cure coronavirus.