Starring: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry jones, Vincent D’Onofrio
Directed By Michael Showalter
Where I Watched It: HBO MAX
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: A rather endearing and sympathetic biopic about Tammy Faye Bakker (Chastain), from her life as a little girl, brought up with a deep religious conviction, and later introduced to the charismatic Jim (Garfield), who has some very interesting ideas about preaching and wealth. Which, of course, leads to his eventual downfall. Along the way, we see them interact with lovely human beings like Jerry Falwell (D’Onofrio).
What Works: Showalter has decided to share his love of Tammy Faye with the world, and it really shows. in many ways, this is as flattering a portrayal you could hope for regarding a public figure like Tammy Faye. She is played with radiant charisma by Jessica Chastain, who hopefully is being considered at least this year for the Oscar shortlist. Chastain does truly bring a certain gift to Tammy that makes you feel so deeply invested and connected to someone who possibly never got to tell her truth while she was alive. She puts on more than just a voice, she embodies the love that Tammy preaches, and the naivety in believing that her husband was doing God’s work.
Biopics about people no longer around always seem willing to peel back the uncomfortable layers that are harder to dive into while someone is still living, and Showalter makes sure to show us the less glamorous side of Tammy Faye. It’s not entirely a fluff piece, but I’d be shocked if this film didn’t make you feel something for her, because Chastain is just that good, and Showalter expertly crafted this film to make you understand what made Tammy Faye Bakker unlike anyone else.
Chastain is backed by Cherry Jones, who plays Tammy’s mother, and Jones is always one of those character actresses that seems underpraised despite always contributing so much in every scene. The film doesn’t center around her, but Jones plays her mother so rigid and cold, it’s a miracle that Tammy Faye managed such optimism. So, kudos also to Jones, for helping to really round out the film.
What Doesn’t Work: Andrew Garfield. I know. i like him too. I am totally rooting for him to get nominated this year for Tick tick Boom, but there was nothing about his performance that really grabbed me and said only Andrew Garfield could have played this role. i really don’t know why he was chosen. Sure, he has charisma for days, but while Chastain was trying to replicate Tammy Faye, I felt Garfield was just reading the script. I never believed him as Jim.
I also thought that he and Chastain never quite landed the chemistry required even for the most simplistic scenes. It always felt like he was in a different film somehow. I think Showalter saw that Garfield had charisma, and thought that would be enough, and never really pushed or challenged him to meet Chastain.
Ultimately, that’s where the film fails, because Chastain does all the heavy lifting. Garfield is just there. This is not Walk The Line where Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon complimented each other’s performances and had palpable chemistry. And this is nowhere near this past years Scenes From A Marriage where Chastain had insane chemistry with Oscar Issac.
Here, Andrew Garfield is just…alive? Thank you?
The Blind Perspective: OK. Don’t freak out at the beginning. I swear, this does have audio description, it just starts a little later than usual. Most audio description I’ve experienced starts with the studio logos. That didn’t happen here. The AD started with the film, when there was something on screen to describe that was within the context of the film, and not just opening credits or studio logos. But it is there. And the description is solid. I wasn’t lost.
Final Thoughts: A strong film except for a miscast Andrew Garfield. i wonder if Oscar Issac had been given this role, would their insane chemistry have sent this movie over the top? Could he have played him Bakker? I don’t know which actor should have been in this film other than Garfield, I just know he was wrong for this part.
Final Grade: B+