top of page
  • Writer's picture

The Eyes of Tammy Faye TIFF Review


Directed by: Michael Showalter

Written by: Abe Sylvia

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Vincent D'Nofrio

Film Review by Robert Stayte



The true story of Tammy Faye Bakker and Jim Bakker is one rooted in a lot of interesting and complicated topics, so naturally a film about them would be ripe with potential. This subject combined with actor turned director Michael Showalter and stars Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield could have resulted in a fantastic film, but ultimately ends up being merely good.

In the 1950s, Minnesota Christians Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) and Tammy Faye LaValley (Jessica Chastain) meet, fall in love, and get married. They soon become travelling evangelists, then rise even further to fame as a result of becoming TV hosts and end up creating a business empire. Soon, many marital problems and other circumstances result in this empire collapsing and the two being permanently affected by it.

Whilst the screenplay might not have the insane devotion to formula that many recent music biopics have had, it feels cut from a similar cloth of just existing to tell the audience about these events and not digging deeper into them. The film is at it’s best when it is just focusing on Tammy Faye’s terrible circumstances despite her success and collapsing relationship with her husband, but it is at its worst when it is succumbing to the typical conventions of using montages to show the rise and fall narrative and summarising events within short scenes.

As a result, several players lack characterisation. Key player in the eventual scandal Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Nofrio) only turns up when the story requires him, the children of the Bakkers seem important but are pushed offscreen and even Jim Bakker’s character lacks in complexity due to us never getting inside his head. Tammy Faye and her mother Rachel LaValley (Cherry Jones) are the most well defined in the film and get enough character exploration to feel 3 dimensional.

Showalter admittedly does craft an entertaining film. The editing is rather fast paced in both the montages and even in simple scenes. Mike Giouklas’s cinematography is also beautiful to look at and captures the time period well. The best technical part is the excellent hair and makeup that stands out especially in the aging of the characters and in making Chastain look like the real Tammy Faye. It’s probably Showalter’s best crafted film to date, yet it could have benefitted from not only a shorter period of focus and if not, but a longer runtime also to fully take in the several events that happen rather than reducing them to checklists.

The cast member that will get the most attention is Jessica Chastain, and whilst some might look at her performance as a typical OTT try-hard Oscar Grab role, she does disappear into it and embody her character very well. Not to mention, the over-the-top aspect of her performance is very suitable for a woman who from a young age has a dedication to performance and stands out as a far more genuine, loving and tolerant figure than the people surrounding her. Chastain nails the dramatic scenes and overall gives a standout performance. Garfield does not quite match her energy, but he still manages to be charismatic yet slimy.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is an entertaining and well-acted biopic, but it continues to highlight the creative bankruptcy of the genre. It could have taken many chances, but it settles for being functional rather than exceptional.



The UK Film Review Podcast - artwork

Listen to our
Film Podcast

Film Podcast Reviews

Get your
Film Reviewed

Video Film Reviews

Watch our
Film Reviews

bottom of page