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Jessica Chastain Dazzles in Otherwise Average “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Review)

For nearly two decades, Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband Jim were televangelists, preaching to the faithful on TV screens all around the world.

Director Michael Showalter (“The Big Sick”) and screenwriter Abe Sylvia have taken the documentary of the same name that was released in 2000 (streaming now on WOW Presents Plus) and used it as a springboard for this biopic on the controversial couple.

The end result is overlong and a little tedious if you’ve seen the documentary before, but it’s worth watching simply because of how marvelous that Jessica Chastain is portraying Tammy Faye. She is simply unrecognizable under all that makeup and the outrageously fake eyelashes, often clinging to a can of Diet Coke and becoming one with the character.

Chandler Head portrays Tammy Faye as a child, bursting with energy and a devotion to the Lord even at a young age. Her belief system took her straight to North Central Bible College in Minneapolis where she first met Jim Bakker (played here by Andrew Garfield). It was pretty much love at first sight and their passion for religion and each other intertwined until they quickly got married and started their own ministry which eventually included a global television network and a Christian theme park.

This dramatization, much like the documentary by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato before it, attempts to paint Tammy Faye in a light of rehabilitation. More than a little naive, but mostly blinded by love and devotion, she reaped the benefits of the massive donations made to their PTL Network but truly believed that they were the good guys.

Watching the rise of their empire as depicted in this film is far more entertaining than watching it fall apart. As we get deeper into the timeline of PTL’s impending doom, both Chastain and Garfield remain compelling but it’s hard to be sympathetic.

In supporting roles, the always reliable Cherry Jones is outstanding as Tammy Faye’s perpetually grumpy mother Rachel and Vincent D’Onofrio chews up the scenery in every possible moment playing fellow televangelist Jerry Falwell.

Showalter does his best with a very by-the-numbers script, but this is worthwhile pretty strictly as an actor’s showcase.

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” can be purchased now from all digital providers. It will be available to rent on VOD or purchase on Blu-ray and DVD this upcoming Tuesday, November 16.

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