TIFF 2021: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As a child, I would always get amazed by the passionate speeches all the televangelists would give. Almost like you want to drop everything and get into religion and dedicate your entire life doing nothing but praying. It would look so convincing, captivating and hypnotizing as if there were unreal powers being used against the human mind. And after seeing, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”, you will no longer be surprised.

Filled with Oscar worthy performances by Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain, who underwent a shocking transformation, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is a story of the rise and downfall of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband Jim Bakker. With the sympathetic performances of lead actors, the film still captures the scheme and fraud of the Bakker family, as they build an empire soon to collapse.

Thanks to the chemistry between Chastain and Garfield, we can see why Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye found in each other an immediate soulmate. Their love for God, for Jesus and religion is bigger than any words can describe. But it’s their way of speaking so beautifully that can easily mess with any mind. They get generous donations from viewers after getting a show at The PTL Club, a televangelist program Tammy co-founded with her husband Jim Bakker in 1974.

There are lots of nuances the film captures, especially the multilayered personality of Tammy Faye, who was outspoken and ready for second act. She could provide support to her husband when he would fail to guarantee funds for a suspicious hotel built for Christians only. Almost like a vacation spot where all can come together spiritually.

Screenplay by Abe Sylvia is so detailed, it gave enough material for actors to juggle with. Therefore, an Oscar nomination for the screenplay should be expected too. Director Michael Showalter leaves his comfort zone by providing by far the most enthusiastic and risk-taking work through “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”. At times funny, dramatic and ridiculous, the film works by capturing the manipulative world of money that knows no shame. Does not matter where the big money enters from – Church, TV channels or any other field; the result is always the same. There will be someone who will take the advantage of it. This time, Jim Bakker will be part of a larger scheme, which the film, unmistakably, captures.

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