What’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”? Michael Showalter adapts the documentary of the identical title, the 2000 work that entertainingly reshaped the legacy of a lady typically derided for her reliance on make-up and accused of bilking her loyal supporters. However, that movie exists. Why remake it as a showy dramedy? I’m undecided anybody ever requested this query. It’s finest appreciated as an efficiency piece from an actress going all-in, however, the whole lot around that whirlwind of an appearing flip feels under-considered. It’s as if somebody determined “Jessica Chastain performs Tammy Faye” was all that anybody wanted to contemplate, and the remainder of the film would simply write and direct itself. It doesn’t. And that sense that there’s not sufficient meat on the bones of this movie creatively begins to develop stronger and stronger with every passing scene, till it’s clear that nobody was actually prepared to dig into what this true story says about religion, acceptance, and resilience. They had been too busy making use of make-up and gaudy costumes to trouble.
Chastain throws herself into Tammy Faye Bakker, the infamous spouse of the king of televangelism, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). In a quite conventional biopic construction, Tammy Faye’s life unfolds from her childhood fascination with faith to her courtship with a younger Jim. The Tammy Faye of Showalter’s movie is outspoken and strident, daring to sit down at a desk with the boys advising her husband on his rising profession, a lot to the disdain of a conservative like Jerry Falwell (a glowering Vincent D’Onofrio). Showalter and Chastain play Tammy Faye as a pure soul, somebody who believed in all of her causes and was surrounded by inferior males who constantly tried to dim her interior brightness.
Whether or not or not that’s true isn’t actually a problem. I’m nice embracing the constructive facet of Tammy Faye, particularly given her progressive beliefs about acceptance and homosexuality—Showalter recreates the well-known interview with Steve Pieters that acknowledged the existence of AIDS at a time when nobody in Tammy Faye’s occupation was prepared to take action, and it has plain emotional energy. Chastain captures her as a continuously spinning firecracker, somebody who folks like Jim and Jerry knew to find out how to use to succeed in a financially-driven fan base however couldn’t actually comprehend. She was pure. When Chastain says, “I simply wish to love folks,” she clearly believes it.
Nonetheless, picture rehabilitation for Tammy Faye Bakker solely will get to date dramatically and would have been higher served in a richer, extra bold movie. Consider one thing like “I, Tonya,” a film that additionally rehabs a really public determine however does so with wit and keenness that’s missing right here. An excessive amount of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” leans on make-up and costumes to inform its story, chopping collectively montages of “Prime Tammy Faye” like a spotlight reel at a Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony. All of it lacks in-depth or dramatic objective, one thing that’s enhanced by a really skinny illustration of Bakker. Garfield is a really gifted actor, however, author Abe Sylvia by no means bothers to get beneath the pores and skin of Bakker. Was he a charlatan or a purist? He’s clearly a weak man, however, he’s additionally sort of a clean slate right here, the straight man to Tammy Faye’s ardor, and he comes off as underwritten.
That is the Tammy Faye story, without query, and followers of hers and Chastain will forgive the issues of a movie a couple of ladies who needed to switch God’s love by her to the digital camera. However, most of these folks find out about Tammy Faye from the doc and know that Chastain can act circles around folks when she’s given suitable materials. As an efficient piece, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” connects. However is that sufficient? Why ought to we hear this story once more? Tammy Faye Bakker longed for acceptance—each receiving and giving it—and Showalter’s movie offers some stable reminders of how a lot we have to worth it. I simply wished the lesson got here in a movie that felt prefer it actually bothered to know her on a deeper degree or open the eyes of those that have been closed for therefore lengthy as an alternative of simply preaching to the choir.
This assessment was filed from the Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant. The movie opens on September 17th.