On June 9, we received the first look at the highly anticipated biopic “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” from Fox Searchlight. Headed by director Michael Showalter, the film follows the rise and fall of the American televangelist duo Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker as they grew what would be one of the largest Christian media empires in the nation. With Jessica Chastain playing the title role of Tammy Faye and Andrew Garfield as Jim, the movie offers an energetic take on the Bakker’s wild life story.
Many remember the Bakkers as reprehensible TV preachers who swindled their devout followers out of millions of dollars, spending exorbitant amounts on houses, clothing and all manner of luxuries. The trailer hints at some of the couple’s many scandals, which include prescription drug addiction, adultery and fraud. These offenses eventually led to their downfall in the late eighties, when the Bakkers were mocked and denounced throughout American media.
From news broadcasts to Saturday Night Live sketches, the Bakkers were publicly lampooned for their lavish living and in particular, Jim’s affair with then 21-year-old Jessica Hahn. Even Jessica Chastain admitted that her perception of Tammy Faye was based solely on TV coverage. In an interview with People magazine, Chastain said, “Here’s a woman that I had an idea of because of what I was fed about her…. [P]eople were always making her into a clown and punishing her for the mistakes of her husband….”
However, it is clear that this film attempts to paint Tammy Faye Bakker in a completely different light, perhaps aiming to uncover her benevolent character after decades of disgrace in the public eye. While obviously not without her flaws, the trailer shows Tammy Faye as someone who wanted to do good, highlighting her support for the LGBT community and those dealing with the HIV virus. Showalter has the difficult task of rewriting Tammy’s story, and it will be intriguing to see what degree of success he achieves in this respect.
Chastain, who also served as a producer for the film, is unrecognizable in the trailer, transformed with the help of facial prosthetics and over-the-top makeup to match Tammy Faye’s signature look. The film seems a promising Oscar bid for Chastain, as the actress went so far as to perform her own vocals for renditions of Tammy Faye’s lively gospel songs. Surrounded by the rest of the talented cast, including Garfield and Vincent D’Onofrio, the performances are bound to be extraordinary.
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is slated to release in theaters on Sept. 17.