Andrew Garfield is Jim Bakker and Jessica Chastain is the spitting image of Tammy Faye in the trailer for Michael Showalter’s hotly anticipated true story of the stunning rise and spectacular explosion of the world’s largest Christian broadcasting empire.
In the 70s and 80s, the Bakkers were household names, known for their televangelism, music, makeup and even a Christian theme park. They were as responsible as anyone for rallying the “Moral Majority” and transforming evangelicals into a cultural and political force. They made millions off of their business, and not all of it was legal, as later criminal investigations uncovered. That (and the mother of all sex scandals) brought the Bakkers’ carefully constructed Christian conglomerate crashing to the ground.
It’s quite a story, and Tammy Faye Bakker has remained a bit nebulous throughout its many retellings. Was she a co-conspirator or a victim? Grifter or grifted? The movie seems to be staking out a middle ground, rejecting black-and-white binaries for a more nuanced portrayal of a woman whose face is familiar to almost anyone with even a passing knowledge of American Christianity but remains unknown as a person to all but the few who truly knew her before her 2007 passing.
“Here’s a woman that I had an idea of because of what I was fed about her,” Chastain told People. “Even the thing about the mascara running down her face. There is not one picture of her with mascara running down her face in reality. But people were always making her into a clown and punishing her for the mistakes of her husband, which all throughout history women have been the victim of, atoning for the sins of men.”
Showalter, who directed the excellent The Big Sick, is a good choice for handling this delicate story. In addition to Garfield and Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye stars Vincent D’onofrio as Jerry Falwell Sr. and Gabriel Olds as Pat Robertson. It’ll be in theaters on September 17.