By Mr. Will Wong
Director Michael Showalter (The Lovebirds, The Big Sick) is back with THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE, based on the 2000 Documentary of the same name. Centering on the rise and fall of Television Evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker (Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain), the subject matter is sensational – but so are the performances!
Showalter and Screenwriter Abe Sylvia create something rather magical here and while on paper, our main subject might be misunderstood, having been so closely-tied to the fraud committed by her convict husband, what we get here actually is a sympathetic portrait of Tammy Faye Baker. We see the lack of privilege from which she is brought-up, to becoming a beloved Television Personality and Singer. She is the woman behind the successful man, and when he stops loving her, all she hopes is that he will love her back, all while living a life of ridiculous extravagance. The Film recounts her downward spiral, which includes addiction to prescription pills as she navigates life through a loveless marriage.
Chastain has gifted us with a phenomenal body of work over the years, however this stands as her finest performance. She captures so perfectly Tammy Faye Baker‘s pain and wounds, as well as her unwavering love of God so beautifully that it is impossible not to be affected by her work. She delivers a real tour-de-force in the Film’s final musical number. And seeing her take a stand for those living with AIDS truly is a visceral moment evincing her true understanding of Tammy Faye Bakker‘s essence. Chastain acts as a vessel for Baker‘s pure soul, and while the subject’s legacy may have been one of embarrassment to many, this performance makes us see exactly why it is so many people around the world were enamoured by her. We were left trembling.
Above this, Garfield truly shows his range here, giving us what it is that made Jim Bakker tick – power and money, sometimes kind and gentle, other times curt and vile. His work here is a true revelation.
Admittedly, the Film feels a bit long at times as we go back and forth on the excesses that filled the world of The Bakkers, but Showalter certainly makes it a fun ride. Without a doubt, we will be hearing a lot about this Film this coming Awards Season and expect the phenomenal Chastain to be front and center.
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE screens at TIFF ’21:
Mon, Sep 13 DIGITAL PREMIERE SCREENING digital TIFF Bell Lightbox Availability: Canada 5:00pm
Mon, Sep 13 IN-PERSON Visa Skyline Drive-In at Ontario Place 8:00pm
Sat, Sep 18 DIGITAL SECOND SCREENING digital TIFF Bell Lightbox Premium Availability: Canada 5:00pm
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