As a child, I vividly remember sitting and watching The 700 Club and PTL (Praise The Lord) with my relatives, who just loved themselves some Tammy Faye! Tammy Faye Bakker, was mostly known and seen as the flamboyant televangelist, singer and woman alongside husband Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). As they built a multimillion dollar ministry empire, Tammy Faye became known more for her outrageously thick eye makeup and unique speaking voice. What we didn’t know is this was a woman who was told her entire life that she would be nothing and was often ridiculed and belittled, while going against the grain of her religious roots illustrating compassion to those seen as sinful or unworthy.
Jessica Chastain in the title role delivers a captivating performance full of heart, complexity and verve! Her transformation into a woman whose fashion and makeup choices are now cemented into pop culture is nothing short of earning her the moniker “Lon Chaney of Actresses.” With every role, Chastain literally throws every fiber of her being onto the screen, but she takes Tammy Faye from a media punchline to a vulnerable human dealt blow after blow, yet handing it with grace and humility all the way up to the end of her very colorful life. She’s even doing all the singing, which take massive courage if you have never done so on camera or otherwise.
Director Michael Showalter shepherds Chastain into a performance with sincerity, compassion while humanizing a portrait of someone with humble beginnings as the secret only child of her mother’s failed first marriage, to her unexpectedly passionate college courtship with Jim. The Bakkers refined the delivery of gospel attracting millions of followers to their satellite network and Heritage USA theme park, until it all came crashing down at the height of their success as Jim was convicted for defrauding viewers and donors in 1989.
Based on the 2000 documentary of the same name, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is also a tender portrayal of Tammy Faye’s personal faith spotlighting her compassion for the LGBTQ community during a time when they were ridiculed and ignored making her a beloved icon in the community to this day.
Produced by Searchlight Pictures, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is in theaters now.