Andrea’s film review – The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The Eyes of Tammy Faye ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. Out in cinemas from 4 February.

Andrew Garfield has been a really busy man but he’s now enjoying the fruits of his work.

His recent performance in Netflix’s Tick, Tick Boom! has been earning awards left and right (he’s going to be nominated at the Oscars, mark my words). His “surprise” appearance in Spiderman No Way Home (yes, the cat is out of the bag now, and we are allowed to talk about it) has made everyone on the internet hungry for more of him as Peter Parker.

And now with The Eyes of Tammy Faye there is going to be even more awards buzz, though mostly directed towards his co-star, Jessica Chastain. And rightly so.

She’s absolutely astonishing as the controversial televangelist Tammy Faye who, together with her husband Jim Bakker created a massive religious empire, with its own TV network and theme park, aimed at spreading the Gospel of God, or at least their version of it.

In the process they turned religion into a tax-free-and-get-rich scheme which eventually funded a lavish lifestyle.

Based on a fascinating documentary with the same title made in 2000, the film charts their rise and fall from humble origins to mega-stars and then the subsequent fall from grace.

But unlike the documentary, which clearly condemns the hypocrisy of the couple and their criminal activities, here director Michael Showalter (do watch his excellent comedy The Big Sick from 2018) tries to go for a much more sympathetic approach, especially towards Tammy.

Her depiction as a genuine soul is slightly undermined by the film’s comedic tone as if the film is struggling to decide whether it wants you to laugh at Tammy for her eccentricity, her chirpy voice and her clown-like make-up or feel sorry for her naivete being with a lying husband.

Garfield once again pulls out a great performance as the deeply troubled, sly and gay (or possibly bi) closeted Jim, and although his make up as an older man later in the film is not completely convincing, his final apology on TV is spectacular.

The rest of the cast is excellent too, including Cherry Jones who plays Tammy’s mother and Vincent D’Onofrio as Jerry Falwell, the mega televangelist with more skeletons in the closet than a character from Scooby Doo.

But the film really belongs to Jessica Chastain who elevates to film to a Must-See right from the first scene. Her brassy and yet nuanced, warm and compassionate performance, under heavy layers of prosthetics and even heavier make-up, which make her unrecognisable, is not just Oscar-worthy but one for the history books in my view.

Visually, the film is an explosion of all that is kitsch from the ‘70s and ‘80s, from the flamboyant clothes (fur coats and elephant pants galore!), to the gaudy décor (plenty of chintz and chandeliers) and so much hairspray that you can almost smell it (unless you’re wearing a mask if you watch this in the cinema).

So, in the end, however frothy, conventional in its construction and a bit superficial on the whole, I thought this was very entertaining and I had a ball with it!

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is out in cinemas from 4 February.

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