Director Michael Showalter brings moments when we believe we are standing between Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker at other times we feel mixed into a confusing story of two lives played out on Christian broadcasting.
The story which is about Bakker and Tammy but it leans deeply into the structure of Tammy’s life and her determined faith which at times appears unreal following her lifestyle and what appears to be a limited understanding of her world. At other points in the soap opera or grand opera atmosphere the script works in, she stands as solidly committed to Christianity even challenging other TV evangelists like Jerry Falwell on God’s love for folks with sexually transmitted disease.
She begins her journey at a young age with Chandler Head playing little Tammy Faye watching a preacher through the window of a church where her mother plays the piano. Becoming committed to Christianity she falls backward on the floor and speaks in undisciplined tongue.
The two meet in college where she is impressed with Bakker’s preaching and his idea that folks who believe in Christianity should live a comfortable life ( if you are a loyal Christian, God will reward you with Earthly comfort).
Both Garfield and Chastain are effective in the shells of the two Christians, but overtime the story becomes quite like many bios of public folks. In this case they each fall into sexual disloyalty, and she begins to take pills, uppers and downers to get going for the shows. He becomes a slave to the institution they built and gives her little attention. Sounds like rock stars that can’t survive because of their success.
Success spoils the empire of the two and even with a some-what uplifting ending, for all practical purposes they were finished after the financial crisis crushed their comfortable lives.
Tammy as played by Chastain appears committed perhaps overboard and at times it makes her look like a clown prancing on stage with her over use of makeup.
The interesting mix of seriousness and lack of competence on the part of each of the two characters, at times reaches out for sympathy and at others they are laughable players in a field that takes advantage of religious folks to raise money.