Jessica Chastain keeps her faith as the make-up wearing televangelist.
I’m not a religious person (I apologize), so I don’t see the campy religious films like last week’s “Show Me the Father.” I do, however, come across some entertaining religious films made by filmmakers who don’t make their actors look like fools. “Breakthrough” and “Silence” are both examples of that, and another addition would be “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” which was inspired by the documentary of the same name, and based on the true story of televangelist Tammy Faye Baker.
My mother knew her story, and she told me it was a crazy story. Seeing Jessica Chastain portray her is riveting, and director Michael Showalter presents her story with emotional and spontaneous aspects.
Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) both meet in a religious school, and get married. Since they could no longer live there, due to a policy against married students, they decide to spread the word of God on the road. And to let the kids know God loves them, Tammy has her homemade puppet Suzy Moppet,” whose head was taken off a doll.
We start off with Tammy’s childhood when her mother (Cherry Jones) refuses to let her go to the church she plays the piano at, because the old lady got a divorced and married Fred Grover (Fredric Lehne), and Tammy would remind church goers about that.
We also continue with Tammy and Jim making it on various religious television stations like Praise the Lord or PTL for short. Despite the popularity and the happy fans, Tammy’s mother isn’t even convinced she and Jim are doing the Lord’s work. And since Jim is mostly working, Tammy isn’t loved by him anymore, which is why she had a fling with Nashville record producer Gary Paxton (Mark Wystratch). This is when they have to reconcile.
Tammy is also known for her orange makeup, face, and eyelashes, which are her trademark. Randi Owens Arroyo is among the make-up artists to make Chastain looks like Tammy, and that also applies to hair stylist Elisa Acevedo. Add some prosthetics, and it could have damaged the actress’ skin.
And then we come to the point when Jim faces charges including swindling money out of PTL, and raping a young woman. This would mark the end of Jim and Tammy.
I can’t lie to God by saying “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” gets four stars, because certain sections tend to drag a bit. But I am honest by saying how much I love Chastain in the ways she resurrects Tammy Faye, and how Showalter guides the right actors and artists to make the characters believable and stylish. Garfield is also convincing as Jim with his mannerisms, Jones has her stern tone as Tammy’s mother, and Vincent D’Onofrio also does some fine work as the profound televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell.
As an independent feature, released by Searchlight Pictures, this movie has more courage than a lot of these religious films to make their ways into theaters. It has a spirit and love for God, and it also cares about these characters and their ambitions in life. It isn’t humiliating or meandering; it shows us what showbiz has done to both Tammy and Jim, thanks to Chastain and Garfield’s performances.
It’s a movie about the rise and fall of two religious figures, and how they transcended from one point to the next. It’s not a perfect movie, but it does overcome its obstacles, and walks on water.