Fervent piousness and vulgar materialism have never been interwoven so tightly as they did in the lives of the once biggest names in TV Christian evangelism, Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain) and husband Jim (Andrew Garfield); the subject matter of biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye. The film is named after the highly praised documentary released in 2000, narrated by unlikely Tammy Faye ally, drag queen RuPaul.

The couple’s infiltration into the hearts of evangelical America was helped by their lavish and money-hungry aspirational lifestyle, which saw them have a cross-over appeal, befitting for the zeitgeist of the consumer-crazed 80s. The film details their ascension from poor touring clerics to full blown TV celebrities to their eventual demise, as they become plagued by controversies of financial embezzlement, cover-ups, rape allegations, rumours of Jim’s bisexuality and their inevitable break-up.

At surface level it’s a dazzling, colourful and intermittently tragic account; befitting for the inadvertent high camp values that personify Tammy Faye. Chastain flawlessly hams it up, completely disappearing into the hilariousness of this drug-addled, asinine, yet incredibly sweet individual. She is dolled up in the most garish outfits, complete with long press-on nails, tattooed make-up, and a nauseating Betty Boop accent.

Yet for all Chastain’s excellence, nothing can really compensate for an incredibly choppy script and an indecisive narrative approach which prevents the film from anchoring to one single premise. In a bid to sketch this larger-than-life characterisation the film reconnoitres too many plot strands, often left open-ended or unresolved and the connections between all these poignant moments are ultra thin, at best. All of this disjointedness finds the film failing to form one cohesive piece, where we never fully engage with its subject matter.

Admittedly packing a whole life into one film and expecting it to seamlessly come together is a big ask. Perhaps, like other recent more effective biopics, zooming in on a specific period would have been more successful in uncovering Tammy Faye’s unconventional sparkle.



CAST:  Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones

DIRECTOR: Michael Showalter

WRITERS: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Abe Sylvia

SYNOPSIS: An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.