The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a riveting, uncomfortable tragic-comedy about Tammy Faye Messner nay Bakker and that bucket of chum-I mean charm her husband Jim and what it's like to be suffocating and perpetually sickened in a flaccid marriage hooked on Diet *Coke. It can't help but venture into beats where it finds the comedy in this living nightmare of Propsperity Gospel in part because the director Michael Showalter comes from that background (from Wet Hot American Summer to The Big Sick), but also because there are times if you don't have a laugh at the absurdity and near surreality that Tammy has found herself in and can't escape, because you know Patriarchy (and of course the scene where she pulls up the chair to the All-Men table is with as loud a chair as can be and only "Jerry" responses instead of Reverend, and dog bless her for that) you could right well explode. It should be awkward to be in these spaces some/most of the time. I'd feel awkward if you weren't feeling that way.
There are at times the movie can't not escape some moments or scenes where surely one thing happened in the real story and then a thing concurrently didn't (ie Tammy Faye talking to the Steven the AIDS guest on TV as Falwell happens to be visiting that day and tales umbrage with what he's seeing), and once the fall-out happens and Jim goes to prison the movie feels like it's going too long most in those last twenty or so minutes when up until then the pace has been terrifically jumping but connecting from one time to the next.
It's also hard not to wish a few details were kept in that strangely got left out either due to its already long runtime or who knows what - and I don't even mean Jessica Hahn, that's fine as it's ultimately Tammy Faye's story and that matters mostly inasmuch as what it does to drill the final nail in the coffin like a thunderbolt, I mean that Tammy Faye actually *married another PTL head honcho (the one we see briefly flirting with her in the golf cart) who ALSO went to jail for crimes while at the company. Sweet Jebuz!
But ultimately this is a film for an actor to sink his/her/their entire solar plexus into, and Chastain (also producer) never makes Tammy Faye's faith a butt of a joke. That's remarkable because the film could have made it a mockery and her belief and prayer is played and written completely sincerely, and yet at the same time she understands that this was a simultaneously someone who could fill a room with her presence while being the most chipper and wholesome thing this side of Mr. Rogers (she even had the puppets!) Every note she's give to play she performs it like she's trying to find a deeper level to tap into, and importantly she understands too when moments behind the scenes and on TV take on this heightened pitch-black comic state all on behavior.
As for Andrew Garfield, it's his best performance yet. He makes Jim Bakker into, well, what if Ned Flanders happened to get injected with a bit of the spirit of Jordan Belfort? A seemingly wholesome guy who actually is a total fraud in his beliefs as well as his practices, and every grimace and tightening of the face muscles is communicated loud and clear, not to mention how he pitches his voice which is a significant part of Chastain's work too. He makes Jim Bakker so pathetic and yet he never feels like he will slip totally into self parody, like as awful as he is he is still a human being and those faults are what makes him who he is. These are BIG personalities and Garfield, who I've found in so many roles to have this knack for creepy, makes him someone you can't stop looking at.
This turned out as good as I was expecting as far as the story (want more check out the You're Wrong About which I might add Chastain did in preparation, too), and my only other hope is it doesn't get buried too far come awards time.
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