September 13, 2021

CINEMA | Seeing Through 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye' x TIFF 2021

"I'm so sick from my faith in you!"
Jessica Chastain Michael Showalter | The Eyes of Tammy Faye | TIFF 2021
Toronto International Film Festival
The Eyes of Tammy Faye stars Jessica Chastain (also a producer) and Andrew Garfield as controversial televangelists Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. It offers an intimate look at the extraordinary rise and fall of the duo through a religious bent of the American dream during the 1970-80s. Their unbelievable story of fraud and redemption encapsulates so much of contemporary religion in politics while also mirroring our obsession with so-called "reality"-based entertainment.

Directed by comedian Michael Showalter in a bit of a shift in his usual subject matter, the half-hearted biographical film meets true crime retelling recreates much of the early beginnings of the evangelist movement on television. Things move very quickly from the Bakkers' humble beginnings to the lap of luxury and national attention in a whirlwind.

A heavily made-up Chastain is indelibly magnetic with a child-like sense of acceptance and warmth while Garfield injects so much foolishly naïve ambition into his fraudster of a preacher. Both commit to their characters demeanours and ideologies with an earnest charm.

Jessica Chastain Michael Showalter | The Eyes of Tammy Faye | TIFF 2021
Searchlight Pictures / Freckle Films
Co-starring Cherry Jones and Vincent D’Onofrio as Tammy's no-nonsense mother and the notorious Reverend Jerry Falwell, the scattered film zooms through televised history as other influential figures show up here and there. Screenwriter Abe Sylvia highlights a twisted message of prosperity and how religion as a money-making endeavor both poisoned and ignited the modern American Christianity movement.

How Showalter mixes religion and financial impropriety with scandal mirrors our current political culture well. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, if anything, lacks a sharp edge as it sympathizes with its real-life characters and their altruism almost too much instead of really digging into their self-serving motives and greed or desire for excess beyond any devotion to spreading the word of God.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Special Presentations program.

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