“The Eyes Of Tammy Faye” Is A Weak Biopic Of Religion And Corruption

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Mark Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye had a lot of potential going for it. Its stars, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, are two of the most talented actors in Hollywood. The director, Showalter, is one of the more recent successful comedy filmmakers to crossover to more serious features. And the subject matter, infamous televangelists Tammy Faye & Jim Bakker, is prime for an equally satirical, entertaining biopic.


Surprisingly though, even with Showalter’s previously directing indie hits like Hello, My Name is Doris (2015) and The Big Sick (2017), plus co-writing David Wain’s cult flick Wet Hot American Summer (2001); the writer-director chose to play it rather safe with Tammy Faye.

In the mid-20th century Midwest, Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) meet and begin a relationship while attending the same private university in Minneapolis. Tammy is a small-town Pentecostal girl who wasn’t allowed to attend church as a kid, which only got her more interested in her faith. Jim is an aspiring preacher and avid capitalist who sees Christianity as a viable organization for both religion and business.

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For the next three decades, Tammy and Jim go from being local celebrities as a married children’s entertainment duo to becoming spokespeople for the Christian Broadcast Network with talk shows like “The 700 Club” and “The PTL Club.”

Cherry Jones co-stars as Tammy’s worried mother and Vincent D’Onofrio appears as megachurch owner Jerry Falwell. If anything, The Eyes of Tammy Faye does remind us that Chastain and Garfield can elevate any material just with their range and performances. The pair aren’t afraid to make themselves look and act silly on screen, and they sell the couple’s dysfunction pretty well as characters.

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With all the heavy makeup Chastain is covered in the entire movie and Garfield overly selling the TV preacher schtick, Showalter’s film would have easily benefited from his usual quirky humor he’s known for. Instead, we’re given a standard, straightforward biopic that is a little too middle-of-the-road on where it stands with its characters. With a more satirical edge, we could have fully appreciated how ridiculous, naïve and genuinely sympathetic Tammy is in the middle of her husband’s questionable endeavors.

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Both Showalter’s direction and Abe Sylvia’s script—inspired by Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato’s 2000 documentary also called The Eyes of Tammy Faye—are clearly aware of the corruption at the TV network. Yet the narrative tiptoes around the topic most of the time. Since the movie is from Tammy’s point of view, we assume this portrayal is on purpose because of her obvious obtuseness to any shadiness in front of her. But at the same time, it also feels a little like underwhelming and weak storytelling.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye has some good acting, but could have used a little more bite for the tone and ultimate message.

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Have you seen The Eyes of Tammy Faye? What did you think of the biopic? Tell us in the comments!

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