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“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” Review Roundup: Jessica Chastain Stuns in Heartbreaking Performance

The Eyes of Tammy Faye made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, which means that now we’ve got a sense of what the critics are saying. Unsurprisingly, there is already Oscar buzz for the film’s star, Jessica Chastain, for her performance playing the famous televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. Critics were mesmerized by Chastain’s embodiment of Tammy Faye, from the lashes to the soul, with Andrew Garfield also earning Oscar chatter for playing Tammy Faye’s deeply morally compromised husband, Jim Bakker. The film comes from veteran comedy writer and director Michael Showalter, who isn’t here to punish or impugn, but to reveal just what made Tammy Faye tick. The Bakkers channeled their passion for Christian evangelism and money into creating the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park. If you know anything about their story or the Bible, you know the rise comes before the fall. Their fall was spectacular and very, very public.

The Bakkers success collapsed into scandal when revelations about their PTL Club (Praise the Lord) included sending nearly $300,000 to buy the silence of model and actress Jessica Hahn, who claimed Jim Bakker raped her. Jim Bakker was eventually sentenced to 45 years in prison on 24 fraud and conspiracy counts.

Yet Tammy Faye’s life in the public eye wasn’t over. Nor were her views always in lockstep with the larger Christian evangelical community, which included an acceptance of and compassion for the LGBT community. This was stance was made most emphatically when she interviewed Steven Pieters (played by Randy Havens in the film), a gay Christian minister with AIDS, on her show “Tammy’s House Party.” During that segment, Tammy Faye made an emotional plea to her fellow Christians to love everyone, including those suffering from AIDS. She also interviewed drug addicts on her show, even while she herself was being treated for prescription drug addiction.

Now here’s a glimpse at what some of the critics are saying. The Eyes of Tammy Faye hits theaters on September 17:

Perri Nemiroff, YouTube: “A fascinating and often heartbreaking exploration of accountability via a collision of passion, fame, fortune and the media with a show-stopping performance from Jessica Chastain at its core.”

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: “People called her a clown, but “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” shows her as someone more complicated and much more interesting.”

Brian Truitt, USA Today: “It’s going to be tough not to worship at the altar of Jessica Chastain throughout this Oscar season.”

Here’s the synopsis for The Eyes of Tammy Faye:

THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE is an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye and her husband, Jim Bakker, rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park, and were revered for their message of love, acceptance and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire.

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Featured image: Jessica Chastain as “Tammy Faye Bakker” in the film THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

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