Speaking to students during a Minneapolis Bible College in the early 1960s, a young Jim Bakker, serious, nasal and sure of himself, denounced the evils of poverty. “God doesn’t want us to be poor! he proclaims, fully embracing the credo of prosperity gospel promoters and formulating its toxic marriage between religion and wealth. A scene from “Tammy Faye’s eyes, it’s a taste of the attractions to come.
Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain are “the Ken and the Barbie of televangelism” in “Tammy Faye’s eyes“, an often irreverent, biting but eerily heartwarming portrayal of tabloid star Tammy Faye Bakker (later Messner) and her former husband who was dishonored by accusations of financial impropriety and a widely disseminated report allegation of sexual assault.
Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain are “the Ken and the Barbie of televangelism” in “Tammy Faye’s eyes. “
Ahead of the film’s September 17 release, America spoke with Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield about the nature of Tammy Faye’s singular faith and courage.
Beginning in 1974, Michigan-born Bakker and his devoted wife Tammy Faye, known for her sparkly outfits and bizarre, garish makeup, organized “The PTL Club”, A Christian discussion program designed as the evangelical response to“ The Tonight Show ”.
Bakker, a former host of children’s shows, has become a charismatic servant of God and Mammon. He and his wife have shaped themselves as the reigning king and queen of television preachers as generous donations from their flock have supported their lavish, 2,300-acre lifestyle. religious theme park, named Heritage USA. The couple came under media scrutiny during the 1980s as an IRS report revealed the Bakkers had embezzled $ 1.3 million of church funds for their personal interests and Jim Bakker was accused of drugging and raping a church secretary, later buy his silence.
Jim Bakker, a former host of children’s shows, has become a charismatic servant of God and Mammon.
But “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”, based on the 2000 documentary by the same name recounted by RuPaul, made of Bakker’s loyal wife and pioneer, Tammy Faye, his main subject and unlikely hero.
When you first introduce Jim and Tammy, you’ll ask yourself, “Are these people real? ” It’s a good question. They arrive as creaky Christian cartoon characters. Jim is a Pharisaic combination of Eli Sunday and Elmer gantry while Tammy Faye, subservient to her husband in nearly Stepford fashion, is a naive singer with what Jim calls “a crybaby […] The voice of Betty Boop.
“She had the fearlessness of a drag queen,” said Ms. Chastain, who prepared for the role over a decade before director Michael Showalter took over the project. Noting Tammy Faye’s flamboyant style, Chastain sought to embrace her “high camp” glamor without resorting to outright caricature or reducing it to a series of sequined dresses. “She loved the makeup and the clothes and her humor was to die for,” said Chastain. “She sang from the rafters. Everything about her was larger than life, and I celebrate it. I don’t care. “
“She had the fearlessness of a drag queen,” Ms. Chastain said of Tammy Faye Bakker.
A challenge for Chastain was to cut through the overwhelmingly negative and contemptuous media portrayals of Tammy Faye to get to the heart of a woman known to many but understood by few.
“We had to work on this story from a non-cynical point of view because the media only saw it through cynical eyes,” she said.
Garfield faced a similar challenge when describing Jim Bakker, who recently controversy for selling colloidal silver as a miracle cure for coronavirus. “I came to [Bakker] with a fairly clean slate so I was able to go through all the headlines and scandals to start with who he was, ”said Mr. Garfield, who considered it a great responsibility to be someone who is still alive. life. “The intention has always been to go as deep as possible into his psyche and his motivations.”
Despite Bakker’s notoriety as an evangelist, Garfield, who previously portrayed men of faith in “Hacksaw ridge“And” Silence “, does not consider this film as a story of belief. “It’s not really a matter of faith for me,” he said. “This is a story of certainty gone awry. Because faith is not faith if it is certain. As we know, if we have read a spiritual text, like the works of Thomas Merton, it there is always a doubt. ”The fatal flaw in Bakker’s religious message, according to Garfield, is its amalgamation of God’s love for mankind and material goods.
“It’s not really about faith for me,” Garfield said. “It’s a story of certainty gone wrong.”
“[Bakker’s] certainty with its erroneous interpretation of this word “prosperity” which comes up a lot in the Bible, combined with a fear of the void makes us fill us with external, unreliable things, especially with the concept of a God-Father who gives us validation through material wealth, ”he said.
Jim’s fixation on wealth as a sign of God’s grace is disrupted when Tammy Faye, possessed by her own religious beliefs and opinions, throws a moral key into their highly lucrative operation by challenging powerful evangelical leaders and expressing her support for the gay community amid the HIV / AIDS crisis.
During a lunch with the Bakkers, Baptist pastor and Figurehead of the moral majority Jerry Falwell Sr., brought to life by an intimidating performance by Vincent D’Onofrio, presents himself as a soldier in the holy war against what he calls liberal, feminist and gay agendas. “The Bible explicitly forbids homosexuality. There is no gray area, ”he says. Tammy Faye disagrees and raises her eyebrows among the others present. “We’re all just people made out of the same old dirt,” she says. “And God didn’t make any junk.” Falwell stares at her.
The Bakkers’ television career was threatened in 1985 when Tammy Faye conducted a live broadcast. interview with Steve Pieters, a young gay man living with HIV Through tears, Tammy Faye displays a truly Christian empathy with Pieters, scandalizing the sexually conservative evangelical movement and unwittingly transforming herself into her most unexpected gay icon. (Take that, Anita bryant.)
Depressed by the deplorable state of her marriage and subsisting on a diet of diet Coke and benzine, Tammy Faye ends up divorcing Jim Bakker, who is indicted on numerous counts of fraud and imprisoned for several years. The subject of frequent parodies and derision, Tammy Faye spends the second part of her life as a television actress, reality star, author and occasional guest on the Gay Pride Marches until succumbing to a long battle with the cancer in 2007.
Backed by meticulously reproduced sets and flashy cinematic style, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is a dark and funny examination of money-hungry televangelists and an ultimately admiring study of an accidental feminist and a holy scroll that drew the attention and late respect of the American public.
“Tammy Faye lived her life for love and wanted to get to this place,” Ms. Chastain said.