The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The Eyes of Tammy Faye ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

In a surprise to literally no one, Jessica Chastain brought me back to theaters.

She stole my heart when I first saw her on-screen about a decade ago, and with this film she made me smile behind my mask from beginning to end. She’s just that good.

I have been hearing from critics that have said that it didn’t appear as though The Eyes of Tammy Faye knew what kind of movie it wanted to be, while Chastain was clearly always aware of what she was trying to do. I don’t know if I quite picked up on that, but I can say that I probably enjoyed 3/4s of the film before it began to feel overlong. Maybe that was a function of the movie not quite knowing what tone it wanted so strike. Aside from losing steam, I also took issue with the movie almost exonerating Jim Bakker. In keeping the fraud and other criminal enterprise in the background in order to showcase that Tammy Faye wasn’t really involved in the shady goings-on, and by turning Jerry Falwell into the bad guy (though I completely accept that he was one of the bad guys), it began feeling as though Jim Bakker was pretty blameless in the financial scandal. Yes, a bad husband. Yes, using people’s faith to build a capitalist enterprise. But lying to investors and taking actions that should land him in prison? I didn’t really see that. And it made me feel kind of bad for him, when I knew that in reality him being “blameless” is likely not the case at all.

I was also disappointed that there was no real discussion of the harm that the Bakkers did to America. The whole Christian Televangelist enterprise, really. The fact that this couple is part of a movement that has turned Americans against each other. A movement that uses people’s faith to preach hatred and bigotry. I know that’s not the story Chastain and Showalter set out to tell, but that’s the one I would have been more interested in.