The 2021 awards season is just around the corner. And with the release of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” this weekend, we may already have a film that could garner several nominations at the March 2022 Academy Awards.
This film dives into the lives of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, the controversial televangelists whose opulent lives, ethical or not, were marred by scandal and controversy.
To start with positives, the performances make this movie. Jessica Chastain stars as the titular Tammy Faye, and she is absolutely outstanding. Chastain has several incredible performances throughout her career, but this may very well be her best. Through facial prosthetics, Chastain delivers an emotional, effortful performance that truly enhances this movie, turning what could have been an average film into an above average film. I would be absolutely shocked if she does not receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, as her performance is simply that good.
Andrew Garfield delivers a great performance as Jim Bakker. The role certainly adapts as the film progresses, but Garfield’s strong acting prowess makes these changes feel natural, ultimately delivering a strong supporting performance. This isn’t his best work in a supporting role (that still being his role as Eduardo Saverin in 2010’s “The Social Network”), but I could see Garfield mustering some buzz for an Oscar nomination, though he would likely need the field to be somewhat weaker this time around.
While we have great performances from the top billed actors, unfortunately the rest of the film is somewhat lacking.
The story itself is simply not executed as well as it could have been. Televangelism and seed-faith, the religion the Bakkers preached where followers sent them money that they would eventually harvest, are very compelling concepts for a movie. The contradictory nature between being a trusted person of faith and using your following as a money-making operation is certainly an interesting thematic concept to dive into. Unfortunately, the film focuses more on the character drama of the story than the thematic nature of it, ultimately leaving the plot less captivating than it could be. Additionally, the writing is fairly surface level, not having any spectacular or cleverly executed sequences. This further makes the story less exciting than it could have been.
Ultimately, the future of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” relies on its star Chastain’s Oscar hopes. Though she delivered an incredible performance, the film itself didn’t deliver the same punch.