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The Eyes of Tammy Faye review: Jessica Chastain shines in film about scandalous evangelist couple

The biopic of Tammy Faye Bakker, who along with her husband Jim, created a multi-million televangelist network, only to see it all crumble.

Prathibha Joy
Dec 22, 2021
cover image
Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain in a still from the film

Story: In the early 60s, newly-married Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker go from being god-fearing to a more progressive form of god-loving that’s driven by ambition. By monetising faith, they build an empire that reached 20 million people at one point, which they just couldn’t sustain.

Jessica Chastain in a still from the film

Review: In September this year, when the biopic of tele-evangelist couple Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband Jim Bakker came out, it didn’t get a global release, choosing instead an outing in the USA only. Today, the film, which has Jessica Chastain as the title character Tammy Faye and Andrew Garfield in the role of Jim, was made available for audiences here on Disney+Hotstar and I must admit that the only reason I watched it was the lead couple.

I’ve never been a fan of evangelists or other third-party intermediaries, so, while I am aware of the multi-billion enterprises in the business, it does not interest me and neither did the film. But then, this is a biopic, a re-telling of the circumstances surrounding the rise and subsequent fall from grace of a Christian evangelist couple who quite literally changed the game of ‘missionary work’ on TV and made it showbiz. The Bakker couple were a big phenomenon in the USA in the 60s and 70s, so, if you can give this a dispassionate watch, chances are that you will be amazed at how they monetised faith and were able to get members of their ‘The 700 Club’ pay $10 each to keep them in business, while you also wonder how much of their act was honest work of spreading the word of God and how much was fake.

Jessica Chastain in a still from the film

From having literally nothing, to putting up an empire wasn’t exactly built on a foundation of honesty. This scandalous evangelist couple diverted funds from the mission to set up other ventures – both for charitable work and otherwise - that would, in turn, become money spinners themselves. At one point, the Bakker’s were reaching a whopping 20 million people through their own satellite network. The glory didn’t last very long; powerful beings within their network itself did not take kindly to their rise and Jim even ends up in prison for fund misappropriation.

The beauty of Jessica Chastain the actress is that you see less and less of her and more and more of Tammy Faye, as the narrative progresses over a timeline spanning a couple of decades. Much of this, of course, is also because of the fantastic work by the makeup department. Andrew tries his best too, but feels a tad miscast as Jim. We love Andrew for his boyish charm and if that ain’t there, well…

Verdict: This is the tricky part – should you or should you not watch this film? Well, it’s not a must watch. Google also tells me that there is a documentary on the life of Tammy Faye that’s a good watch, so, don’t be enamored by the cast. If you really do want to know more about the Bakkers, be your own judge and take your pick!

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