The Eyes of Tammy Faye was once the title of a popular 2000 documentary and now it’s the title of a biopic about the rise and fall of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, with the emphasis being on the more sympathetic Tammy (who is no longer with us, having died of cancer in the Aughts).
For you youngsters out there they were VERY famous in the 1980s with their scandal and downfall happening in 1989. The movie is directed by Michael Showalter (The Big Sick, Hello My Name is Doris) and gives plum roles to Oscar nominees Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain as the famous fallen couple.
Will it be great, terrible, a mix of both simultaneously or (most dangerously) blandly mediocre? Will it be up for all the Oscars or none of them? Let’s give this the full Yes No Maybe So™ treatment
• Opening with Cherry Jones accusatory “what did you do?” instills immediate faith.
• At the very least the costumes, makeup, and production design are going to provide opportunity after opportunity to make this a hugely fun watch.
• The shift in tone from broad comedy to personal drama at the one minute mark, with the music abruptly ending. Tammy’s eyes opening (in her most recognizable look) and the “we’re not doing anything wrong, though”… “is that a question?” exchange works just superbly well. If a good portion of the movie nimbly or even impactfully jumps this line well, it could well be special.
• “Can we talk about Satan, later Jim?” LOLZ and also 100% relatable if you’ve ever dealth with an overly dramatic or victim-mentality partner.
• That shot of Andrew Garfield as Jimmy walking out in shame with a team around him — it looks so instantly and perfectly familiar. Those of you who are old enough to remember this scandal probably had the same reaction.
• Mitchell Travers (Hustlers, Eighth Grade, In the Heights) on costumes ! Will he become a major costume designer? We’re hoping so after that Oscar worthy (but ignored) work on Hustlers.
• Okay this shot is so over the top. Banish the canted angle!
• The makeup is fun but has the potential to be very SNL sketch too and it’s hard to know from these clips whether or not it will escape this trap. Especially at the end with “This is who I am” it looks like they’ve reshaped Jessica’s perfect face in the cheeks and jaw area. Could be distracting even if she’s great. Linda Dowds, who has won three Emmys (True Detective, The Kennedys, Grey Gardens) and Stephanie Ingram, both whom have worked with Jessica Chastain multiple times, are the Makeup and Hair department heads. Hmmm. Maybe this should be in the next section. Justin Raleigh (American Horror Story) and Brian Wade (who worked on Vice) are on the prosthetics.
• That clip above is the only reference we get to Jimmy’s homosexual scandals. How will the movie handle this? The real life story on this is complicated with Jim denying he had ever had sex with a man (and also being accused of raping a woman) but multiple men claiming they’d had sex with him. In real life Tammy Faye was a strangely fence crossing in the culture wars, popular with the often homophobic factions of society (Evangelical Christians) but also popular with the gays, not just because of her drag queen look but that she was charitable during the AIDS crisis and also refused to denounce homosexuality the way most of her ilk did.
• The conversation about politics with Jerry Falwell. Will the movie recognize Tammy Faye’s naivete about the same or actually share it?
• It’s a small thing but my favourite beat in Jessica’s performance (in this admittedly tiny sample) is the way she sounds like she’s on the edge of crying and laughing simultaneously when talking to the AIDS patient. Lovely mix and just right from my vague memories of the televangelist.
• Jessica’s voice work sounds very broad especially when playing young Tammy … but then Tammy Faye was a very broad lady, a full caricature you could easily argue. The trick for Jessica will be playing the caricature and the character simultaneously. It’s a tough assignment. If she nails it we could be talking Oscar! Well, even if she doesn’t we could be talking Oscar since the Academy worships celebrity playing celebrity performances.
• Speaking of… is this finally Cherry Jones opportunity for some movie awards attention as her mother?
The Eyes of Tammy Faye opens in theaters on September 17th. Are you a Yes, a No, or a Maybe So on this one?
Tammy Faye Bakker Previously on Towleroad
This Post first appeared on The Film Experience