The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The Eyes of Tammy Faye ★★½

Review by Kate Erbland

More than a decade after the collapse of the sprawling empire created by televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker — due to the decidedly un-Christian demands of greed, sexual impropriety, and real affection for all things gold — Tammy Faye began to reemerge into very public life. The cherry on top of a motley career that saw the former television personality doing everything from appearing on “The Surreal Life” to penning a book about her ordeal (titled, amusingly, “I Will Survive…And You Will Too”) was a documentary titled “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” which sought to unpack the truth about her wild rise to fame. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s doc gave Bakker — an iconic for all the wrong reasons — the chance to tell her story, her way, which means with significant embellishment and plenty of heart.

Now, two more decades on, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” gets the narrative treatment, care of a frazzled, unfocused biopic that, again, leans into stories so crazy that they must be true, as led by the indomitable charms of a woman without peer. Michael Showalter’s film — also, somewhat confusingly, titled “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” — initially opens with the facts, including archival footage from the early days of the so-called “Pearlygate” drama that effectively ended the Bakkers’ careers (and marriage), before moving squarely into Tammy Faye’s (Jessica Chastain) line of vision. This is the Tammy Faye Bakker story, after all, and while Showalter’s film rarely coalesces into a satisfying whole, Chastain holds the whole damn thing together, thanks to a will as strong as whatever Bakker used to keep her trademark false eyelashes in place.