Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of the title character in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” just might earn her an Academy Award, according to local movie critic John Clyde. (Fox Searchlight)
THE PCL NETWORK — What is called the awards season is upon us. It’s the time when studios start putting out the films they think will be Academy Award fodder, and it usually results in two things: really great movies or really bad ones that tried too hard.
Fox Searchlight’s first entry into awards season 2021 is “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” The biopic chronicles the rise and fall of Tammy Faye and her then-husband Jim Bakker, as they created one of the largest television stations on the planet, spread what they said was the word of God, and ultimately fell from grace with the world they had captivated.
The movie has some highs and some lows but overall makes for a movie worth seeing if you have any interest in the material. But when it comes to the performance of the lead, I’d say it’s a must-see for cinephiles.
Here are a few reasons “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is both a must-see and why it’s not quite as good as it could have been.
If there is one reason to see “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” it’s for the incredible performance of Jessica Chastain. For anyone who remembers the flamboyant Tammy Faye, they know she was one in a million. Chastain not only nails Tammy Faye’s unique voice, but there is so much more to a person than how they sound and Chastain recognized that.
Chastain manages to exude outward confidence while hiding inward anxiety. She is naive, but not dumb. She is infuriating, yet lovable. The makeup helps you forget you’re watching Chastain, but she loses herself in the role and you believe she is the one-and-only Tammy Faye.
Chastain’s performance is simultaneously funny and heartbreaking. The pain Tammy Faye felt was real, and you feel every single emotion thanks to Chastain’s performance.
Andrew Garfield is very good as Tammy Faye’s charismatic and dubious husband, Jim Bakker. But regardless of how good he or anyone else is in the film, they are all standing in Chastain’s shadow.
The two-time Academy Award nominee should garner her third nomination and very possibly her first win thanks to her performance in this film.
Set design, costume and makeup
There are four categories I almost guarantee “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” will be nominated in for Academy Awards. The first is Chastain for best actress, and the other three are best makeup, best costume design and best set design.
These aren’t always areas people recognize, but the work and detail that went into these areas are stunning and create a world that transports you to another time period.
First is the makeup. A fair amount of makeup was used to make Chastain look like Tammy Faye, and then to age both her and Garfield. Often aging makeup or prosthetic makeup is not done well, but this looked seamless and it’s some of the best aging work I’ve seen in a very long time.
Costume design had its work cut out for it considering the flashy and expensive outfits Tammy Faye would wear. But the team did their homework and got all of the over-the-top wardrobe necessary to do Tammy Faye justice.
Last, is set design. I don’t know how they found everything they needed to recreate all the sets in time periods ranging from the ’50s to the ’60s, but the designers found all of it and it created an atmosphere for the movie that made it feel authentic.
When one thing is out of place from the time period, it easily pulls you out of the magic of the film. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” never really falls victim to this. Even if it’s not something you recognize, you’ll notice how engrossed you are in the film and much of that is due to the wardrobe and set design work.
Not a ‘must-see’
While “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” has some really bright spots, I also felt it fell short on telling the story it needed to. The film starts with Tammy Faye as a child, chronicles her meeting Bakker, their marriage, early travel ministry and TV show. There is a lot to cover there, and we go through it incredibly fast. Then when the Bakker’s build their juggernaut TV network, PCL, we pretty much gloss over that completely and move straight into their stardom and eventual fall.
I know you can only get so much into one movie, but choosing what to put in there to effectively tell the story is paramount in engaging the audience and creating a connection with them. Some of the areas they decided to jump would have given us a stronger attachment to the characters and their story.
What parents should know
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is rated PG-13 and the rating is fitting. There isn’t really any language or violence, but it’s the thematic elements that really earn the rating. There is some sex in the film, but no nudity. There are two scenes early in the movie and one, later on, that again doesn’t show any skin but can certainly be uncomfortable. Not something for kids.
With that said, this is not meant to be a family movie or something to take kids to. This is a grown-up movie for a grown-up audience hoping for a grown-up drama.
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is rated PG-13 for sexual content and drug abuse.
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is ultimately a good movie that’s made great thanks to the performance. The missteps are made up for with Chastain’s fantastic portrayal of the title character. This will not be a movie that everyone loves, but fans of strong performances or those familiar with the story of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker will find something to like about this movie.