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Jessica Chastain delivers another Oscar-worthy performance in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

One of my favorite actresses, Jessica Chastain, tackles one of my favorite film genres, the biopic in The Eyes of Tammy Faye from Searchlight Pictures. Michael Showalter directs the film, which tells the story of the American evangelist, singer, author, talk show host, and television personality known as Tammy Faye.

Abe Sylvia pens the script for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which is based on the 2000 documentary of the same name. The feature film is an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall, and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye and her husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield), rose from humble beginnings to create the world's largest religious broadcasting network and theme park. They were revered for their message of love and acceptance, and prosperity.

Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, idiosyncratic singing, and eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn't long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire. We first meet Tammy as the empire begins to crumble before flashing back to her childhood days where her mother Rachel (Cherry Jones), a Christen piano player, does her best to keep Tammy away from the church.

You see, Tammy's mother had a painful divorce from her birth father, a Pentecostal preacher. The divorce caused a domino effect for Tammy's mother against other ministers alienating her from the church. Later, her mother married a second time to a widower, forming a blended family in which Tammy Faye would become the eldest of eight children. However, Tammy can't stay away from the "calling" and soon speaks in tongues in the church.

Before long, Tammy is attending school at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she meets Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). On their journey to becoming a Christen power couple, Jim and Tammy come into contact with the likes of televangelists such as Pat Roberson (Gabriel Olds), Jimmy Swaggart (Jay Hughley), and of course, Jerry Falwell (Vincent D'Onofrio).

Usually, with biopics, I go in knowing a lot about the subject whose life story is being told, however with The Eyes of Tammy Faye, I knew very little about Tammy or her husband, Jim. As the film progressed and events came out, the lightbulb went off, and I began to recall some of the things highlighted in the movie, particularly Jim's dealings with Jessica Hahn.

Ever since her appearance in 2011’s Take Shelter, I’ve been a huge fan of Jessica Chastain. The late great Roger Ebert was a massive fan of Chastain's versatility and likened her ability and range to Meryl Streep, which I fully agree with. As Tammy, Chastain humanizes the icon and sings, displays comedic flair, and appears almost unrecognizable in the heavy makeup scenes. I genuinely hope the studio does an awards campaign for Chastain, as her performance is that good.

British actor Andrew Garfield is also great in the role of Jim Bakker. The script doesn’t fully delve into Bakker's shady business dealings; however, enough is revealed that we know why some saw him as a wolf in sheep's clothing. Regarding the supporting cast, Vincent D'Onofrio provides his usual agnostic machismo as Jerry Falwell.

Similar to most biopics, The Eyes of Tammy Faye does follow a template. However, I was so enthralled by Jessica Chastain's performance that I didn't care. For Chastain alone, I recommend checking the film out.

Final Grade: B+


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