Tamara “Tammy” Faye Messner (Jessica Chastain) was born into a family of Pentecostal preachers. Her parents divorced shortly after Tammy was born, her mother remarried a couple of years later, and she gave birth to six more children to her new husband. From early childhood, Tammy joined the church, where her mother played the piano, and became very devout.
After school, Tammy went to study at the Bible College in Minnesota, and there she met a certain Jim Baker (Andrew Garfield), who was then as poor as a church mouse. They began an affair. Soon they got married and moved to North Carolina, where they organized joint ministries in the church and began to actively cooperate with local television studios, for which the Bakkers organized various Christian missionary programs.
In the mid-1970s, Jim decided to create his own Christian TV channel, The PTL Club, which quickly gained popularity, and in the three years of its existence, the PTL network has grown to hundreds of television stations. After the launch of the PTL Satellite Network, which allows broadcasting 24 hours a day, the audience began to grow rapidly and soon exceeded the mark of one million daily viewers.
As a result, The PTL Club turned into the Bakkers’ media empire, bringing in huge profits. Jim invested in construction, and then built a whole “Christian Disneyland” Heritage USA, which quickly became one of the most popular vacation spots in America.
However, since 1978, various scandals began to shake the Bakker empire, from which Jim managed to extricate himself for some time, but in 1987 such details were revealed that after a couple of years Bakker had to go to prison for 45 years.
This picture is based on the real story of the famous televangelists Tammy and Jim Bakker, who literally created the largest media empire out of nothing, around which various scandals quickly began to appear, and in the thirteenth year of its existence, this empire collapsed with a deafening crash and wild scandals.
By the way, PTL officially stands for Praise The Lord (Praise the Lord) or People That Love (People who love), but more often this abbreviation was deciphered as Pass The Loot (Drive the loot).
Actress Jessica Chastain saw the 2000 documentary “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” in 2012 and became so interested in the story that Jessica began acquiring the rights to make a biopic about the couple and their story. By the way, a feature film was already shot about them in 1990, where Tammy Fay played Bernadette Peters, Jim Bakker – Kevin Spacey.
And no wonder Jessica was interested in this story: in America, televangelists and related channels are very, very popular, and most televangelists make a lot of money. It is in Russia that the priests mutter something on the Spas TV channel, and the audience of this one and only TV channel is somewhere around 1% of the total television audience, and in the States, TV preachers arrange colorful shows that are watched by millions. And the Bakker family are bright representatives of this televangelical tribe.
Actually, in the picture they are trying to figure out who these people were, why they managed to create such a media empire, and how everything went to hell for them.
Of course, the filmmakers offer their own view of this story, and some critics reproach the picture for, they say, there is no answer to who exactly Tammy Faye was – a naive simpleton who sincerely believes in God and believes that her mission – to help people, or was she a hypocrite and manipulative, helping her husband to receive huge donations that they spent on living a luxurious lifestyle?
Also, some reviews say that in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”, both Tammy and Jim are completely “cardboard” and fake characters, behind which you cannot see living people.
I completely disagree with this. Yes, the film does not give unequivocal answers to the question of who these people were. However, an attempt to understand this issue does not mean that viewers should receive an unambiguous answer. In fact, quite a lot was known about the life of the Bakkers: they were very public figures, and some hidden aspects of their life became known after investigations. And in the picture it is all clearly shown. It’s just that no unambiguous assessments are given there, and this, in my opinion, is absolutely correct: here are the facts for you, and draw your own conclusions.
Jessica Chastain impressed me a lot and even struck me with this role. Because here the character is very complex from all sides, and the type is completely different from her – she just never played such roles. But she coped with it simply brilliantly, and here the point is not at all that the actress had to apply complex makeup for four to seven hours before each shoot, which is also a feat. (Especially since then it took another two hours to shoot it all.) And in what was played absolutely wonderful, and this Tammy Fay came out as a completely alive person with all her advantages and disadvantages.
Yes, she was such a simpleton with a stupid laugh, she trusted her husband, although she saw that all sorts of bad things were spinning around him, which she preferred not to know anything about, she also enjoyed using the money that their company earned without asking questions about whether it is ethical to spend huge sums on yourself from donations made to completely different causes.
But at the same time, she consistently spoke out in support of the LGBT community (this was really true, it was not far-fetched for the sake of the “newsletter”), and in those days when the church condemned all this, she publicly supported people with AIDS, that is she really did things that were important to her, and which could easily alienate the audience from her.
And even after the wild scandal that broke out with The PTL Club with all these proceedings and, at least, the ugly sides of Jim’s life, made public, after they lost their media empire and their luxurious mansion, after receiving a serious disease – rectal cancer Tammy returned to television and resumed her performances, drawing people’s attention to the problems of seriously ill people. (She died in July 2007.)
Jessica showed her like that – a rather simple-minded person, but still very outstanding and deserving a certain respect. Yes, she always preferred at least bright, and from a certain age even defiant makeup, she seemed weird and, let’s say, freaky, but she had an interesting story, and she certainly was not an unambiguous personality. What, in fact, the creators of the picture wanted to demonstrate, and they did it, in my opinion, it turned out really great.
Jim in this story was such an almost unambiguous villain, but they also tried to explore his character in the picture, and not to bring out a kind of Karabas-Barabas. Jessica said in an interview that it was her initiative (and she is one of the producers of this film) to invite Andrew Garfield to this role, because, in her opinion, he could show the various facets of this person, and not make him out of him a cardboard villain.
And with this role, too, everything is interesting. The real Jim Bakker had the ability and even the gift to influence gullible people, and he constantly used this gift. In addition, Jim quickly came up with a convenient formula for himself, which read “Why does everyone say that God loves only the poor and that God requires you to be poor? On the contrary, God wants everyone to be rich!” – and in accordance with this postulate, he acted. He did not consider that he was doing something bad, appropriating millions of donations from viewers. After all, God loves him, right, like these viewers? So God, as they say, gave this money, and what he gave through the viewers, whom Jim convinced to donate serious sums to his company, threatening hellish torments to those who would not fork out – well, God knows better in what ways to provide good deeds to his faithful shepherd, right?
And Garfield did this Jim in all its glory: of course, Baker believed in God – in the sense that faith in God would help him make good money, which happened. He is charismatic, he is so sensitive all of himself, which worked well for the audience. And he was good at persuading, and when the telepastry instead of full-fledged hundreds of dollars donated some miserable tens, Jim could very convincingly promise them fiery hell. At the same time, he could easily cry, which Andrew demonstrated in the picture, and I point-blank do not understand the reviewers who believe that it all looked very artificial and that, they say, the tears were “plastic” – look at the recordings of the real Bakker: he could shed a tear there for any reason, it was his working tool. So I liked the role of Garfield, and I think that the actor looked quite decent in it.
By the way, interestingly, the real Bakker, although he received as many as 45 years in prison on charges of 24 counts (the accusation of raping a secretary, the accusation that the girl was paid $ 287 thousand for her silence, moreover, from donations to the channel, accusations of numerous financial frauds and repeatedly proven lies under oath), but in reality he spent only 5 years: first, on several appeals, the term was reduced, then for exemplary behavior and all that – in general, he was released ahead of schedule in 1994.
And after a while he again began to conduct shows on TV, and then he mastered Youtube – this is his channel. True, for such a well-known character, attendance is more than modest (less than 100 thousand subscribers and 2-3 thousand views of each video is nothing at all), but Jim now threatens everyone with the Apocalypse and more or less successfully sells “bunkers” for this business from shit and sticks, food kits and equipment, and in covid times, Bakker sold colloidal silver as a panacea for coronavirus, and for this he was once again razzed by regulators, although he was not jailed. But, by the way, to hell with him: it is clear that such a nimble little man will always earn money on suckers, whom he has been spudding all his life – as you like and on anything.
But back to the film. I really liked it. Well choreographed and really well played. Jessica Chastain just works wonders, and I am very glad that she received her first Oscar for this role (before that there was one nomination for the main female role and a nomination for the secondary female role) – it is well deserved. I also liked Andrew Garfield, he played well. I also note the good actress Cherry Jones, who played Tammy’s mother Rachel, and Vincent D’Onofrio, who perfectly portrayed Jerry Falwell, whom Jim dealt with, and who eventually went to The PTL Club (with whom she eventually went bankrupt).
But it would seem. When I read the abstract, I thought that it could hardly be interesting – some kind of televangelists, cutting money on simple-minded fools. How many there were and how many there will be. Nevertheless, the story turned out to be very interesting.
PS As usual in such cases, a few materials about real prototypes.
Tammy Faye and Jim Baker in different years of life.
Colonel Sanders in Bakker’s transmission.
Tammy Faye performing after the collapse of the channel.
Tammy Faye the day before her death July 19, 2007. This is not a paparazzi shot, it was she herself who came to the Larry King show (he had it many times), where she said goodbye to her fans. She was 65 years old, and then she weighed a little over 30 kilograms. But she never hid her illnesses (she also had inoperable lung cancer), and she was always frank about how she struggled with it. It hurts to look at this photo, but Tammy wanted everyone to see it as well – that’s why I published this photo.
Jim Baker now.
The trailer for the documentary that Jessica Chastain decided to make a film about the couple’s story after watching (the movie, of course, not the trailer).
The couple’s famous interview given on May 27, 1987, which is partially recreated in the film.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mark Vystrach, Sam Jaeger, Louis Canselmi, Gabriel Olds, Fredric Lehne, Chandler Head