The Eyes of Tammy Faye brought with it a heap of expectations, considering Jessica Chastain’s multiple Oscar nominations and Andrew Garfield’s grand year with tick, tick… BOOM! and Spider-Man: No Way Home. The film tells the story of a televangelist couple, Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, falling from grace in their greed-fueled media ventures. The film deals head-on with the corruption the guise of televangelism coats. And before I dive further into the unfulfilled expectations of this head-holding, seat-sloucher excuse for a film, I would like to hand it some well-deserved praise.
Considering the lazily written script, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield worked wonderfully, having convincing chemistry when needed and portraying Faye and Bakker’s relationship’s range. Andrew Garfield does an astounding job playing a gut-wrenchingly hateable Jim Bakker, while Jessica Chastain, I can say with ease, is the saving grace of the film. Chastain melds herself to the character of Tammy Faye and is a delight to watch.
Beyond the two stunning lead performances, however, the flaws of this film are ever-present. Sitting at a two-hour runtime, The Eyes of Tammy Faye does very little to justify itself. Although its subtext was rich and poignant, the cyclical, repetitive nature in which the story unfolds is more comical than I feel is intended. I found myself sniggering or cackling at points of great dramatic and emotional depth due to either painful predictability or an embarrassing attempt at satire.
By the end of the first act, the film wrings itself dry of any novelty in the grand questions it asks or the relationships it “develops” (a word I use tentatively). With the inclusion of a few tacky montages, it rids itself of a great deal of artistic merit – a notion furthered by its infrequent and untasteful editing. The oversaturated aesthetic the film showcases could be argued to allude to the plasticity of the “godly” and “spiritual” lives Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye led, but it becomes a visually straining experience. And in light of the haphazard editing, I find it hard to praise the colour grading and cinematography despite their potential subtextual significance.
Before further drilling The Eyes of Tammy Faye I would like to take a moment to appreciate the story and the life of Tammy Faye – a concept and idea I feel is worth discussing and representing. There are gems within the narrative, but the focus on the public lives of the couple was its biggest misstep. Not only is the story depicted already well-documented, but it hints at the far more potent transformations Faye undergoes pre- and post-televangelism. This ties back into the lethargic script, failing to be overtly creative or assess the acknowledged richness of Faye’s life at large.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye was a disappointing experience, to say the least. A short film stretched to two hours. I am grateful to The Courier for a free ticket because if I spent money out of my wallet, I would leave crying.