Michael Showalter directs The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a biographical drama based on a 2000 documentary about the life of famous evangelist and TV personality Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain). The film follows her life as she and her husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield), create a Christian TV program called The PTL Club.
There is so much to enjoy about this film. It’s from the director of films such as The Big Sick and last year’s The Lovebirds, and we have two incredible stars in the lead. But, does the film reach its full potential? For the most part, fortunately, it does.
It’s a film filled to the brim with personality and charisma, both of which are unavoidable when your subjects are Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. These two were always divisive figures in the American limelight, with Bakker still being the subject of deservedly unpleasant headlines to this day.
And the stars of the film, Chastain and Garfield, are magnetic. They have such believable chemistry as this slightly odd couple with a fair share of personal issues. These two are both stand-outs in this film, playing real-life figures to perfection.
Chastain has never been better as the enigmatic Faye. She kills it in every scene she’s in, and she is front and center for much of the film. This is a career-best performance from an actress who has already shined in films such as Molly’s Game, Interstellar, and Zero Dark Thirty.
She is stunning as this character, completely changing her voice and mannerisms to capture the essence of Faye in remarkable ways. You can practically see the research and work that went into taking on this character, and she vanishes into her starring role.
We also have Garfield as Bakker, and he is nothing short of magnificent. Mainstream audiences may know him best as Spider-Man, but in films such as The Social Network, Hacksaw Ridge, Silence, and now this film, Garfield proves time and time again to be a gifted actor ready to take on any role he gets.
His portrayal of the complex character is astonishing, and our two leads are captivating to watch. They are never perfect heroes or evil villains; they are two people who know how to put on a likable, cheery facade for their viewers but have many issues behind the scenes.
While we have two incredible actors at the forefront, our supporting cast is riveting as well. Cherry Jones and Vincent D’Onofrio portray their roles with conviction, especially D’Onofrio as a homophobic televangelist, Jerry Falwell.
The makeup and hairstyling departments deserve massive praise for their work on this film. Chastain spent countless hours in the makeup chair for the role, and it’s genuinely impressive what they were able to pull off. They are sure to be frontrunners for this year’s Academy Awards.
As far as the story goes, it is generally a simple, risk-free retelling of the lives of these two figures. However, Showalter puts style and thought into many of his shot choices, and while it doesn’t have much that distinguishes it from other biopics, it can be outrageously charming at times.
While some may have wanted the film to showcase more of how the public responded to Faye and Bakker, the film stays in its lane and does an excellent job of it, especially during its well-placed moments of humor. And the film’s ending works, ending on a note that’s both triumphant and hopeful.
There were a few moments in the film that could have dragged, but Chastain and Garfield keep you watching with their lively performances. It’s a vibrant, colorful biopic that will be most appealing to those who kept up with the life and eyes of Tammy Faye.
Grade: ★★★✬☆ [7/10, B-]
Jonathan’s Tips: If you’re in the mood for a good biopic, this movie will likely do the trick.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is in theaters September 17.