(director:Michael Showalter; screenwriters: Abe Sylvia/based on the documentary by Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato; cinematographer: Mike Gioulakis; editors: Mary Jo Markey/Andrew Weisblum; music: Theodore Shapiro; cast: Jessica Chastain (Tammy Faye Bakker), Andrew Garfield (Jim Bakker),Vincent D’Onofrio (Jerry Falwell), Cherry Jones (Rachel), Sam Jaeger (Roe Messner), Fredric Lehne (Fred Grover), Louis Cancelmi (Richard Fletcher), Gabriel Olds (Pat Robertson), Chandler Head (Little Tammy Faye), RuPaul (Narration); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers; Jessica Chastain, Kelly Carmichael, Rachel Shane, Gigi Pritzker: Searchlight Pictures; 2021)

“An unappealing and dull biopic on the disgraced televangelist Tammy BakKer.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michael Showalter (“The Lovebirds”/”The Big Sick”) directs an unappealing and dull biopic on the disgraced televangelist Tammy Bakker (Jessica Chastain), who with her slimy showman business partner husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield, miscast in a role he doesn’t get into), sold-out Christianity with their hypocrisy so they can benefit materialistically from their phony religious messaging.

Tammy died in 2007.

The ambitious couple began their journey together after meeting
in the 1960s at a Minneapolis Bible college, and then went onward together with their ’60s kids’ show on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia and then made their way to North Carolina to do their own religious thing on PTL (Praise the Lord) Satellite Network in the ’70s and ’80s. The slick couple created the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park until things fell apart through scandal. In 1989, Jim Bakker was sentenced to serve time in federal prison for his financial crimes. A few years later the beleaguered Tammy divorced him. She was made into a national joke by talk-show hosts and comedians for her gaudy makeup, her big hair and phoniness.  For the two Christian sales people, love and prosperity went together (their God was a loving one, who would accept all their shit, those with AIDS and wasn’t political like others in their field). Their loyal followers kept forking over money and support to the creepy duo to keep them living like showbiz stars. They remind me of the idiot supporters of Trump.

This film tells by the number about their rise and fall. It’s based on the documentary from 2000 directed by
Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato (which was just as bad as this film), and is predictably written with an eye toward salvation for the gaudy Tammy by Abe Sylvia. If you’re looking for something to cheer about in the lousy film, it’s the decent performance by Jessica Chastain. She plays Tammy as someone remembered for her eyes (her long lashes and the coal-black streaks of mascara that would run down her lids to her cheeks whenever she went into her tear-jerker act). The only sincere thing about these two grifters was in them getting your credit card numbers right so they can pitch their product for a profit.

If you bought into these frauds at the time, shame on you. The film has no teeth to rip into Tammy’s camp act, her greed or excesses. It just politely tells their story without intervention. The most cringe-worthy scene
was their tearful TV confessions about how persecuted they are, while having the balls to ask the parishioners to increase their donations.  That scene tells you all you want to know about your Tammy.

 If you bought into the film’s attempt to clear her name because her bad guy hubby brainwashed her, you might as well call yourself an easy mark and let it go at that.

I believe the producers made this superficial film so
Chastain can win the Oscar with such a hammy role that many Oscar voters usually fall for, and if she does I’ll be pissed she won it for playing such a meaningless character in such a meaningless film.

REVIEWED ON 9/18/2021  GRADE: C –