TIFF 2021 Review: ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ Is a Superficial Summary of a Complicated Life

Posted in Festival Coverage, Film Festivals, Movies, TIFF 2021 by - September 14, 2021
TIFF 2021 Review: ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ Is a Superficial Summary of a Complicated Life

Good biopics are hard to make. That was my thought throughout The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a much-hyped film where the great Jessica Chastain plays Tammy Faye Bakker. Together with her husband Jim (Andrew Garfield), she creates what was the fourth-largest television network in America for a time, Praise The Lord Television. But Jim’s years of embezzlement became public. Soon, the Christian TV moguls were destitute, divorced, and Jim was in jail. A true fall from grace…

Chastain is a lot of fun to watch in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Her hair and makeup are painstakingly accurate, and her accent is campy but realistic. As a viewer, it’s fun to watch her have fun playing an icon. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t afford Chastain much opportunity to showcase her range. Rather, Tammy Faye either bitterly rages at her husband, or she’s the famously chipper woman who believed, “God didn’t make any junk.” There is no in-between.

As a story, the new film from Michael Showalter doesn’t hang together particularly well. Instead of exploring a single, interesting period in the life of the titular Tammy Faye, it attempts to chart all the major events in her life, and it’s the poorer for it. There are moments of interesting social commentary, such as a short debate about whether Christian leaders should stay out of politics (Tammy thinks yes), but The Eyes of Tammy Faye ultimately provides a superficial summary of Bakker’s life. The audience never truly gets to know her.

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Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, Refinery29, Elle Canada, Flare, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-founder of The ProfessionElle Society. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about parenting, politics, and The Bachelor.
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