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'The Eyes Of Tammy Faye' Review With Casey

 

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a plucky biopic adapted from the documentary film of the same name produced by World of Wonder and released in 2000. Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game, 2017) plays the title role of Tammy Faye Bakker, a devout Christian and Bible college dropout from Minnesota who joined her husband Jim as traveling ministers throughout the South in the 1960s.

Singing songs and using homemade hand puppets to preach to children was just the beginning for this couple who went on to create the Praise the Lord Club, a Christian TV news show in the 1970s which eventually earned them millions . . . until 1989 when Jim Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy. 

 

In this real-life story of American success, greed and disaster, the film does a great job of exploring what some religious leaders call "prosperity gospel" in which televangelists combine a sincere allegiance to Jesus Christ with an unbridled joy of growing wealth and luxury. 

 

Directed by critically acclaimed comedy TV writer Michael Showalter, and who directed the terrific 2017 film The Big Sick, The Eyes of Tammy Faye has some editing issues that disrupt the continuity in a few scenes, and certain transitions are less than graceful making the film feel inconsistent or unfocused. But the film ends up being good, mainly due to Jessica Chastain's steadfast performance. She exudes a relentless cheerfulness that is only matched by her overzealous passion for religious connection and an affection for heavy make-up, acrylic nails and large fur coats. Jessica Chastain also does all her own singing in the film and magically recreates famous interview moments of Jim and Tammy Faye from the 1980s. 

 

The film grazes the line between honoring Tammy Faye, and the empire she helped build, and ridiculing it. But where it really shines is in showing how Tammy Faye broke rules and challenged assumptions in televangelism by using her talk show to respectfully interview a gay man with AIDS or discuss the use of penile implants to support sexual activity. 

 

The film may not be amazing or great, but it's still an entertaining character study of a unique woman who showed her strength to the world happily and desperately.

Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.