If there was a darkish aspect to Tammy Faye Bakker, it has but to be uncovered. Following scandal, dying, and several other tell-all books, the worst factor anybody has to say in regards to the chirpy televangelist-turned-national punchline was that she turned a blind eye to her husband Jim Bakker’s many affairs and monetary indiscretions—as a result of, in any case, an excellent Christian spouse is a loyal helpmeet who honors her husband as she would God himself. The story of Tammy Faye Bakker is one in all blind religion: in God, in individuals, and most of all in God’s individuals, a religion that turned out to be horribly misplaced. Certain, she had everlasting lip liner and wore extra eye make-up than RuPaul, who narrated the 2000 documentary on which this biopic relies. But when we’re holding house to re-evaluate America’s collective condemnation of Britney Spears, Lorena Bobbit, and Courtney Stodden, then why not Tammy Faye?
The Eyes Of Tammy Faye is directed by Michael Showalter, who acquired his begin as a member of the cult sketch-comedy group The State. That would appear to point a satirical method to the fabric, and certainly the aesthetic and tone of this movie are heightened to the purpose of absurdity. In early scenes the place they’re giddy with love for Jesus and one another, Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) and Jim (Andrew Garfield) act like they’re excessive on helium. However whereas Showalter relishes the camp worth of the movie’s costumes, make-up, and set design, make no mistake: This can be a sympathetic portrait. Sympathetic to a fault, even, as Showalter sacrifices dramatic rigidity and thematic heft to emphasise Tammy Faye’s innocence. Even her largest sin, an affair with the producer of her many overwrought gospel albums, is introduced as a second of weak spot prompted by years of loneliness.
In perform, this can be a normal biopic, full with a sequence tracing factors on a map over jaunty reward music as a younger Jim and Tammy crisscross the nation as touring preachers. Scenes set throughout Tammy Faye’s childhood in Minnesota within the early ’50s current her as an undesirable, unloved baby who took refuge in Jesus; when she meets Jim eight years later at Bible faculty, the 2 bond over their then-unconventional concepts about faith. (They dance! To rock ‘n’ roll!) Tammy Faye holds on to her private gospel of unconditional love all through the movie, together with a compassion for LGBTQ+ individuals and AIDS sufferers that scandalized church leaders within the ’80s and later made her a homosexual icon. In November 1985, two months after then-President Ronald Reagan first acknowledged the existence of AIDS, Tammy Faye interviewed gay, HIV-positive minister Steve Pieters on the Bakkers’ PTL (Reward The Lord) community, a seismic occasion in Christian TV circles that’s faithfully re-enacted right here.
Jim, in the meantime, falls right into a pit of ambition and avarice pushed by his preaching of prosperity gospel, a cornerstone of recent evangelical Christianity reductively described as the idea that wealth is an indication of God’s favor. The Eyes Of Tammy Faye makes reference to the tenets of prosperity gospel all through, and coyly addresses the doubts Jim may need had—lengthy after the harm had already been accomplished—about how Christian it actually was to show that God loves the wealthy greater than the poor. However these innuendoes are absent in dizzy, VHS-accented scenes of the Bakkers’ rise from lowly hosts of a Christian children’ puppet present to multi-millionaire house owners of an enormous complicated that included, as Jim places it, “the world’s first Christian water park.” Indulging in procuring sprees and dwelling in a collection of more and more luxurious homes, Tammy Faye by no means asks too many questions, which you would learn both as naïveté or craven self-interest. Showalter doesn’t appear terribly desirous about parsing the distinction—and that, together with Tammy Faye’s exclusion from the actual decision-making at PTL, leads to an excellent hour of dramatic wheel-spinning.
Once more, perhaps there isn’t a there there with regards to Tammy Faye’s darkish aspect. But when Showalter resists a cartoon takedown of Tammy Faye Bakker, he additionally hasn’t made a really deep have a look at the world she got here up in. The villain of the story is Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio), founding father of the Ethical Majority and railer against Teletubbies as gay propaganda. (Just about all the things was gay propaganda to Falwell.) There’s an interesting thread right here about Falwell’s fusing of evangelical Christianity and Republican politics, and the way it led to our present nationwide predicament. Seen by Tammy Faye’s eyes, nonetheless, Falwell is just a pushy jerk to be defied in her personal refined, female methods. It’s debatable whether or not an Adam McKay-style explainer on the bigger historical past of evangelicalism in America could be an asset to this movie. However the truth stays that in case you don’t know a lot about these points, you gained’t study way more from The Eyes Of Tammy Faye.
The movie satisfies most as an aesthetic object. From mauve shag carpeting to white wicker patio furnishings, the set design is an enjoyably gaudy time capsule of ’70s and ’80s mid-American kitsch. The costumes, heavy on polyester, spangles, satin, and fur, are additionally deliciously garish, however the best below-the-line achievements on this movie are from the hair and make-up group. As Tammy Faye ages, Chastain disappears underneath more and more thick layers of make-up, from a contemporary, chipmunk-cheeked search for her as a younger co-ed—you possibly can nonetheless acknowledge Chastain at this level—to a heavy prosthetic that the star says took seven and a half hours to use. Her eyelashes are tarantulas, her bronzer is shiny orange, and her lipstick is spackled on. However that’s what the actual Tammy Faye Bakker regarded like, no exaggeration required.
To that finish, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye emphasizes that this can be a trustworthy interpretation and never a caricature with its closing credit, which juxtapose clips from the movie with the on-camera moments being reenacted. Chastain has studied the tapes, so to talk, impeccably re-creating Tammy Faye’s bubbly giggle, Betty Boop timbre, and Minnesota accent, all pursed lips and lengthy vowels. It’s spectacular how deep she sinks into the technical features of the efficiency, however a talented impersonation issues little if there’s no coronary heart behind it. It certainly helped having Garfield—a dynamic performer, even in movies that aren’t worth his talents—to play off of; the 2 genuinely appear to be having enjoyable within the film’s nuttier moments. Nevertheless it’s when Tammy Faye’s religion is examined that Chastain is ready to harness one thing actual, culminating in a knockout musical quantity that helps the viewer perceive how Bakker—a lady who, from the skin, appeared like a joke—was capable of win so many souls. That’s not simple to do. Particularly underneath all of that make-up.