The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a biographical drama directed by Michael Showalter, based on the 2000 documentary of the same name by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato of World of Wonder. The film tells the story of Tammy Faye Bakker, from her humble beginnings growing up in International Falls, Minnesota through the rise and fall of her televangelism career and marriage to Jim Bakker. The screenplay is written by Abe Sylvia, while Chastain is also one of the film’s producers. I found The Eyes of Tammy Faye to be well written and well performed. I liked it very much.
The film opens with a young Tamara Faye LaValley (Chandler Head) and her early beginnings growing up in a religious community in International Falls, Minnesota. Tammy (Jessica Chastain) moves to Minneapolis, Minnesota to study at North Central Bible College, where she meets and falls in love with fellow college student Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) after enjoying his prayer sermons. The two marry the following year and Tammy introduces him to her family. Her mother Rachel (Cherry Jones) disapproves of their impulsiveness and is not as optimistic in her Christian beliefs as Tammy, who is eager to help people in need of inspiration and love. The two drop out of college and set out to drive around the United States to preach and inspire Christian communities, with Jim preaching and Tammy singing and playing with puppets for the children. In 1964, their preaching gets the attention of Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and the two become hosts of a popular children’s show, Jim and Tammy. Jim is also able to become the first host of CBN’s The 700 Club, a role which Pat Robertson (Gabriel Olds) eventually takes back from Bakker, while the two welcome a daughter named Tammy Sue in 1970.
At a party at the home of Pat and Dede Robertson (Coley Campany), they are introduced to conservative pastor Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio), who expresses interest in working with CBN. After Tammy has a disagreement with Falwell in which she dismisses the politicization of faith and the outcasting of homosexuals, she encourages Jim to instead create their own television network so that the two can create and have control over their own programs. In 1974, the two have left CBN and created the PTL (Praise the Lord) network, as well as their flagship show The PTL Club. The show becomes increasingly popular over the years, with Jim encouraging donations from viewers, while Tammy has also become a successful singer. Tammy invites Rachel and her husband Fred Grover (Fredric Lehne) to move in with them at their new compound in Tega Cay, South Carolina, after which Rachel expresses to Tammy her suspicion over how PTL gets its money. She cites newspaper stories of PTL’s financial improprieties and tells Tammy that she is naive and blind to manipulation.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is based on a true story of the Tammy Faye and Jimy Bakker Scandal that rocked the Christian community. Having seen this movie, I feel differently about Tammy Faye. She appears to have gotten caught up in her husband’s ambitious schemes but maintained her innocent ways throughout the marriage. Tammy was naive and in love with the wrong man. The acting was brilliant and the story was well told. The film suggests that Jim Bakker swings both ways making him a hypocrite, citing his greed as his downfall. For her role in the film, Chastain has been nominated for the Golden Globe, SAG Award, and Critics Choice Award. I found The Eyes of Tammy Faye to be very informative and quite entertaining. If you don’t know the story, you’ll learn much watching this film. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 69% of 224 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.50/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye might have focused more sharply on its subject’s story, but Jessica Chastain’s starring performance makes it hard to look away.” The Eyes of Tammy Faye is streaming on Prime Video — Check It Out!