God loves a comeback story, and, as it turns out, we humans do, too -- making director Michael Showalter's redemption biopic about a disgraced televangelist a pleaser both in heaven and on earth. Chastain nails Tammy Faye's breathy voice and manner of speaking, and, as time wears on, the makeup team goes into overdrive until the star truly looks identical to the cartoonish Christian pariah. Chastain is a marvel, so successfully inhabiting her character that it's almost impossible not to be persuaded of Tammy Faye's inherent goodness and good intentions, even if she strayed off the path just a little. Except that it wasn't just a little, it was a lot, which makes the film's tendency toward forgiveness a bit infuriating. Through Tammy Faye's love and confidence in her husband -- and, make no mistake, this is her story told through her eyes -- Jim unfairly earns admission into the "mistakes were made" category rather than being held truly accountable (and she often comes off as being willfully ignorant of what was going on).
Yes, people are complex, and certainly the Bakkers did a lot of good, too (which, to be fair, the film doesn't dive too much into, either), but it's frustrating that there's just not enough time in The Eyes of Tammy Faye to follow so many intriguing rabbits into their individual holes. The film exposes the origin of some Christians' shift from the biblical declaration that money is the root of all evil to the now-popular idea that God wants his believers to live in "abundance." The beginnings of the relationship between evangelical Christians and the Republican party are also sprinkled in, but not enough to satiate the curious. There's not even enough attention given to Tammy Faye's final triumphant chapter: her ascendance as a gay icon. And while the opening scene shows Tammy Faye telling a makeup artist that false eyelashes are a part of her identity, the film doesn't appear to circle back and explain why she leaned into her garish appearance. But if you watch carefully, it does. That's for you to figure out. Suffice it to say that her actions speak as cheerfully as her words, and it turns out that Tammy Faye was a rebel with a cause.