‘Oh, Tammy Faye. You follow blindly. In the end, all you are is blind...’
A great film is a collaborative miracle. The odds on the director, the editor, the cinematographer and the cast all excelling on the same project are slim. And even if that happens, they also need a good script to work from. The Eyes of Tammy Faye comes close to achieving greatness, but falls just short…
Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain) is a larger-than-life television evangelist who, along with her husband Jim (Andrew Garfield), takes over the airwaves. Director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) takes us through the rise and fall of an American icon.
I should begin by noting that Garfield and particularly Chastain are both excellent here. The latter won the Best Actress Oscar for her multifaceted and flamboyant turn in the titular role, and it’s difficult to argue that she didn’t deserve it. Chastain captures all aspects of Faye’s quirky personality and is much more convincing playing Faye in her dotage than Garfield is in portraying an older Jim Bakker. Having said that, Garfield brings an uncharacteristic intensity to the film’s earlier moments in a role that is a significant break from type for the British actor.
The problem here is that the story of Faye herself is not interesting enough to sustain a two hour movie. The performances elevate the material, but Tammy Faye doesn’t have the cultural cachet to justify a feature length film – particularly in the UK.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is worth watching for Chastain’s astonishing performance, but that’s really the only reason for this film to exist.
For more information of Tammy Faye Bakker, I would highly recommend A Miracle – an episode of Jon Ronson’s exemplary podcast Things Fell Apart that explores her relationship with AIDS activist Steve Pieters.