SYNOPSIS: An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall, and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and '80s, Tammy Faye and her husband Jim Bakker,rose from humble beginnings to create the world's largest religious broadcasting network and theme park, and were revered for their message of love, acceptance, and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn't long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire.
Televangelists might not be a thing here in sunny Singapore but it’s definitely a booming business in the States since the 1950’s. Based on the 2000 documentary of the same name, The Eyes of Tammy Faye chronicles the rise and downfall of televangelists power-couple, Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye. Never mind the fact that you have never heard of them but this biographical drama will more or less piqued your curiosity.
Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) and Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) is a passionate Christian couple who started out driving around America to help and inspire Christian teachings through songs and puppetry. After some slight disagreement with a conservative television network, the couple decides to start their own PTL (Praise the Lord) network which turned out to be a successful money-making venture.
Despite having a hand in helping the poor and struggling communities, the media starts to become more sceptical over PTL finances. At the same time, the relationship between Jim and Tammy starts to crack with Jim’s infidelity and his ambitious attempt to build a Christian theme park being part of the reasons.
Expectations are high given such a flashy topic on hand but director Michael Showalter and writer Abe Sylvia squandered it all on Tammy Faye’s larger-than-life personality than a proper insight into the insights and lurid details on how they became televangelists with over 20 million viewers worldwide. Even Jim’s business plans into expanding his Christian empire also seems wobbly. Not to mention his supposed homosexuality relationship with his assistant.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye covers so much ground but none of it sticks to the mind after more than two hours of watching Jim preaches and Tammy singing her lungs out. Apparently, the biography does no justice to the antics of the Bakkers except a fleeting “best of” display of their misguided affair with God.
Still, Oscar nominated Jessica Chastain puts in an award-winning, powerhouse performance as Tammy Faye. Constantly holding on to a can of Diet Coke and under layers of freakish makeup and likely latex, Chastain effortlessly steals the limelight from her co-star Andrew Garfield though honestly, he is ever the consummate actor. Chastain’s Tammy Faye seems liked a honest to God’s servant, spreading His good words and making sure the LGBT has a fair share in this world. She refuses to be the plain woman hiding behind the husband. She is genuinely a strong woman who hopes to change the world through God.
And perhaps this is the sole factor in the screenplay that stands out. That is making sure that the audiences remember the character of Tammy Faye. Does the disgraced televangelist deserve her eventual downfall? Or is she a mere innocent victim in a bigger scheme of things?
Review by Linus Tee