Jessica Chastain somehow has no Oscars. Like Amy Adams, it feels like she should have at least one by now. But she has none. So, she is doing what anyone determined to win a goddamn Oscar does: donning prosthetics and playing a controversial historical figure. Chastain stars with Andrew Garfield in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a biopic of Tammy Faye Bakker and her televangelist husband, Jim Bakker (played by Garfield). The first trailer dropped and, not unlike the stories of Tonya Harding and Joe Exotic, you can see how the Bakkers are ripe for the cinematic treatment. Humble, Midwestern beginnings, corrupt “greed is good” 80s amorality mingling with hard-right Evangelism—two things that fused permanently and are now wreaking havoc on our politics—and the inevitable fall from disgrace complete with FBI raid and news helicopters. It’s all here! Add to it a pair of fantastic actors doing accents and you have a recipe for Oscar.
I am a little distracted by Chastain’s fake jaw, but everything else looks amazing, and to be fair, the fake jaw looks better in the shots of Tammy Faye from her later years, when age and plastic surgery have completely changed her face. I’m also curious to see how they tackle not just the Bakkers’ fraud scandal, but the overall impact of their prosperity gospel televangelism. I mean, we just had a president who can only be described as “religious” in the crassest, most prosperity-driven way. Tammy Faye saying “faith isn’t political” is a real record-scratch moment because of course it is, and also, the Bakkers’ particular brand of prosperity gospel never went away. It just morphed into something even more monstrous and unstoppable. Tammy Faye may have meant well in the beginning, and your mileage may vary on her redemption via her (comparative) acceptance of the LBGTQ community and outreach with AIDS patients, but there is no denying she helped build an exploitation machine that continues today in various incarnations. I sure hope this movie is more complex than fake jaws and “nice girl led astray”. I also hope she wins an Oscar before she reaches “Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant” levels of try. I feel like we’re rapidly approaching that line.