Biography Drama

TIFF Review: ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ Dramatizes the Rise of Fall of America’s Evangelical Sweetheart

September 24, 2021Ben MK

With films like Zero Dark Thirty and Molly's Game to her credit, Jessica Chastain is no stranger to movies inspired by true events, having played everything from a CIA analyst involved in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden to the mastermind behind an illegal gambling operation that attracted the likes of celebrities and high-rollers alike. With The Eyes of Tammy Faye, however, Chastain is taking on her most ambitious and over-the-top real-life role yet.

In director Michael Showalter's fomulaic yet enjoyable biopic, Chastain plays Tammy Faye Bakker, an ordinary little girl from International Falls, Minnesota who would grow up to become one of television's most popular Christian evangelists, and a woman whose passion for God could only be rivalled by her passion for her husband Jim (Andrew Garfield). Inseparable since meeting at bible college in 1960, Jim and Tammy Faye managed to parlay their knack for preaching into their own show on the Christian Broadcasting Network in 1974, where their charismatic personalities and family-friendly appeal make it easy for them to win the hearts of viewers all over the world. But when their success begins to exceed even their own wildest expectations, the couple soon discover that not even they are immune to the temptations and sins they preach about.

Though not nearly as insightful as the 2000 documentary of the same name, the result nonetheless makes for an engaging look at the story behind one of the '80s most notorious scandals — and it's all thanks to Chastain's all-in performance as the film's titular character. Whether or not you're familiar with the real Tammy Faye Bakker, there's no denying that Chastain's incredible physical and vocal transformation is unforgettable. And it will no doubt prove praiseworthy to both moviegoers and Oscar voters alike.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 6 min.

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