THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (2021) – Fascinating biopic and a stellar performance from Jessica Chastain


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

This interesting biopic tells the story of the rise and fall of America’s TV evangelists Tammy Faye and her husband Jim Bakker during the 1970’s and 80’s. Jessica Chastain gives probably one of her career best performance here as the charismatic Tammy Faye whose infectious natural eagerness to help people propelled her to superstar status in the televangelist empire. Their fame and fortune led them to build a Christian based theme park called Heritage and even owning their own satellite to broadcast their television evangelism across the world! Jessica Chastain’s acting here is so convincing she really makes her character believable and ultimately someone we identified with and sympathise towards the end. Tammy Faye is famous for her heavy makeup and loud clothing, and to Jessica’s credit, she not only manages to look the part, but also put across a performance that overshadows this extreme external persona.

Supporting Jessica is Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker. Jim is no less flamboyant and Andrew succeeds in matching Jessica’s persona perfectly. He however, has the disadvantage of being a less sympathetic character and somehow I found his makeup effects to make him look fatter and older during the various stages in his life, rather fake looking. This resulted in an unfortunate distraction to his performance. Andrew Garfield is one of my favourite actors as he always takes on challenging and diverse roles. Jim Bakker is no exception to his impressive and growing list. The exception here being that he needs to be content to be overshadowed by his leading actress.

The real Tammy and Jim (above) compared with Andrew and Jessica

Watching how Tammy Faye’s childhood influenced her later years is interesting. But ultimately, it is clear that much of Tammy’s character and positive energy is more in-born than influenced by her strict upbringing. Her genuine desire to spread the word of the bible and help people is admirable and she found her life partner Jim in college as he too possessed a similar ambition. It is uplifting to see how they worked and gained success at the beginning and we really wished they moved on. However, they also have an uncanny way of interpreting the Bible which includes justifying their entitlement to the wealth and luxury that comes alone with their fame. This corruption of the mind and soul ultimately led to their downfall as their “business” accounts begin to suffer and lose money. Their extravagant lifestyle did not seem to suffer though. Eventually, Jim is charged for using the money from the ministry for his own personal use and serve time in jail, effectively destroying the empire Tammy and him have built. Perhaps one thing refreshing is that throughout their downfall they were never tempted with drug usage which is so often the cause of the downfall of many superstars.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is an eye opening account of the rise and fall of a couples’ dream of becoming successful while being able to spread their ideology. Their story highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the human being offering a lesson to learn to discerning viewers.

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