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Eyes of Tammy Faye, The
Fox Searchlight Pictures // PG-13 // September 17, 2021
List Price: Unknown
Tammy Faye is primarily known for her career as a television evangelist alongside her husband at the time, Jim Bakker. With being recognized as controversial figures, the ups and downs of their career make for an interesting biographical drama, especially for audiences who might not know their story as well. However, Faye was even more thrilling as a person than an icon of religious television. She was a unique figure in personality as well as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community for the way she stood by them during the AIDS epidemic through to her passing.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a biographical drama based on the documentary made by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. The story explores how Faye's (Jessica Chastain) life led her to co-founding the televangelist program called The PTL Club with Bakker (Andrew Garfield). Given the title of the film, the story is indeed explored through Faye's eyes. The narrative focuses on her attempting to juggle her career, marital problems, family issues, and the pressure of handling it all simultaneously.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye succeeds in telling the rollercoaster ride of a career that she had. However, the most fascinating thing about Faye isn't her career, but who she was as a person. She had no shortage of personality and stood up for her morals that were often unpopular among mainstream Evangelists. The film suffers from a common biographical issue: it relays its characters as such icons, they feel a bit inaccessible as people. For a film that is supposed to tell the story from the eyes of its title character, it still feels a bit removed.
While there's plenty of drama to explore over the rise, fall, and redemption of Faye, there are also hints of comedy sprinkled throughout. Director Michael Showalter is no stranger to incorporating the two into work that feels balanced. He succeeded with Hello, My Name Is Doris and The Big Sick in juggling character, drama, and humor. While The Eyes of Tammy Faye is never trying to be hilarious, there's some satisfactory "chuckle humor" that gives Faye's personality the chance to shine a bit through all of the drama.
The real kicker here are the performances. Chastain is transcendent in an Oscar-caliber performance as Faye. She totally commits to the character in a way that she becomes unrecognizable as the movie moves. Garfield is stellar as Bakker, as he manages to truly capture the different sides of the character. Even though the film isn't told from Bakker's perspective, he still proves to be a stand-out here. There aren't any bad performances here, although this is Chastain's show.
Considering the life that Faye led, it's a little underwhelming that the movie plays by the conventional rules of the typical biographical drama. The film glosses over the most personal aspects of Faye. It's less about her journey as a person and more of a detailed account of her relationship with fame. If nothing else, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is proof that Chastain is one of the best actors working in Hollywood today.