“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Metacritic (7/10), Rotten Tomatoes (***+)
Taking a hard and very public fall is something no one wants to do, especially for those who were once widely beloved and respected. As this film shows, one can go from an esteemed public figure to a walking punchline in a heartbeat. And, when that happens, can one truly achieve redemption? Such was the challenge faced by televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, who, along with husband Jim, built one of the largest and most successful Christian television empires in the 1980s. It made them wealthy beyond belief – that is, until the source of that income was exposed, causing their empire to come tumbling down and making the idealistic but naive, easily imitated Tammy Faye to become a celebrated public joke. How does one recover from such humiliation? That’s what director Michael Showalter’s biopic attempts to illustrate through various phases in the protagonist’s life, most of which are carried out quite capably, though there are a few segments that are a bit too much like caricatures and a few others that could be better focused. Nevertheless, despite these pitfalls, the film features award-worthy performances by Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield as the celebrated TV couple and Cherry Jones as Tammy Faye’s hard-edged, tough-loving mother. It also presents a balanced look at the protagonist’s life, poking fun with rapier wit and high camp when needed, but also sincerely painting Ms. Bakker in a surprisingly and deservedly justified sympathetic light. This latest offering in the film biography genre may not be perfect, but then neither was Tammy Faye’s notoriously over-the-top makeup routine. In either case, though, that doesn’t mean this release won’t bring a smile – or mascara-laden tear – to your face.