TIFF: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” Review

-Allison McCulloch

126 mins. | USA/Canada | 2021

Director: Michael Showalter
Editors:  Mary Jo Markey, Andrew Weisblum
Cinematographer: Mike Gioulakis
Costume Design: Mitchell Travers
Hair: Betty Lou Skinner (key hair stylist), Heather A. Hawkins (key hair stylist), Stephanie Ingram (hair department head), Elisa Acevedo (hair stylist), J.C. Davis (hair stylist)

“Tammy Faye…I love you just the way you are.”

The Eyes of Tammy Faye captures the rigidity of the Christian church featuring leaders such as Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio), Oral Roberts, and Pat Robertson (Gabriel Olds). As Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) pierces through the insincerity of these men, the film delivers a powerful message of love and compassion. We all “sin” and “fall” and this film is about not being limited by human shortcomings and focusing the shift from “hell” to “healing”.

While briefly going over Tammy Faye’s childhood, the film dives into new territory when Tammy Faye meets Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) at North Central Bible College in 1960. Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield’s sexual chemistry is off the charts. While Tammy Faye’s love for people and God shines through, Jim Bakker feels like a master manipulator right from the beginning. Andrew Garfield recently appeared in Gia Coppola’s Mainstream; he reprises his role as a smooth-talking ring leader of a dog and pony show. However, this film is much bigger and has higher stakes.

“God’s been talking to me too, Jim. And He says I gotta speak up.”

Tammy Faye had a heart for the people that the Christian leaders of the day rejected. Jerry Falwell was against liberals, feminists, and homosexuals, and it never sat right with Tammy Faye. She made sure to reach out to people like Steve Pieters (Randy Havens) whose pastor told him to hide the fact that he was gay instead of showing him Christian love. Later in the film, she reaches out to teen boys who make fun of her; she tries to be neighborly and to show them the love of Christ.

The film doesn’t shy away from Tammy Faye’s shortcomings including a (Diet) Coke addiction and a reliance on pills. While record producer Gary Paxton (Mark Wystrach) always denied a sexual relationship in real life, the film makes a case for at least an emotional affair (his character is also made up to look like Keanu Reeves).

The costumes and hair are done to perfection, completely capturing the moods of the time periods. However, the makeup is off and the faces don’t always age or de-age properly (Jessica Chastain even expressed that permanent damage was done to her skin from the makeup, although some articles regarding this act like she was joking).

All in all, the film is carried by Jessica Chastain’s moving and powerful performance which will be acknowledged by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences if they have any sense at all. Someone asked me if Andrew Garfield is “not as good”; he’s great, but the focus is not on him or his character, Jim Bakker, despite being an integral part of the story.

Also amazing is the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye from Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey from the year 2000, which the narrative film was based on. For additional comparison, check out the 1990 TV Movie Fall from Grace starring Kevin Spacey as the straying Jim Bakker and Bernadette Peters whose strong singing voice captures the talent of her character, Tammy Faye Bakker.  

In this film, Jessica Chastain does her own singing on songs including “The Solid Rock”, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, and “Jesus Loves Me”. Definitely check it out as soon as you possibly can!

Vegan alert:
-Car with leather interior
-Dede Robertson (Coley Campany) wears a mink
-Hot dogs at Pat Robertson’s house
-Fur pillows and fur hats
-Tammy Faye and daughter got matching fur coats
-Rachel (Cherry Jones) was bought a fur coat and fur hat
-Tammy Faye wears silk
-White fur hat and matching coat
-Fur throws on the couch

Vegan points:
-Tammy Faye pets
-Tammy Faye kisses a dog
-Animal Humane monitored some of the animal action. No animals were harmed in those scenes.

Rating: 9/10

Follow Allison McCulloch on Twitter.

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