Lights! Camera! Jesus! Makeup!
BQB here with a review of the biopic/life story of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
I thought this would be very stupid. Actually, I thought it was going to rake a duo of greedy TV preachers and while it’s hard to say they don’t deserve it, if you were alive in the 1980s and 1990s, then you know they pretty much were made fun of ad nauseum so at this point, twenty some odd years later, it’s like beating a dead horse, then kicking the horse for extra fun. Doesn’t make any sense.
Ergo, it was a surprise that this movie was actually interesting and a good watch. This is always a nice surprise when you go into a movie thinking the worst and coming out with the best. It actually humanized the Bakkers, told me a lot I never knew before.
Honestly, I was a kid when there religious media empire blew up under accusations of wrongdoing so I only knew them as the preacher that cheated on his wife with Jessica Hahn and that said wife was that crazy lady with tons of makeup.
Things I didn’t know: that Tammy cheated first and Jim’s cheat was, as the movie claims, a retaliatory cheat. I didn’t know that televangelism dated back to the 1960s. I didn’t know that Tammy sang or did puppet shows. I just thought she was a wacky lady with a lot of makeup.
I also didn’t know that Tammy was advocating for inclusion of LGBTQ worshippers into the Christian faith. An early scene where a young Tammy tries to talk a disinterested Rev Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Nofrio) into being nicer to homosexuals goes about as well as you might expect, but you have to give her credit for trying because this was the 19-freaking-60s.
I also never knew there were claims that Jim Bakker was gay. The movie never outright confirms it but strongly suggests it. Not that anyone reads this fine blog but I suppose in fairness, I should mention Bakker has denied being gay and remarried a new wife in 1998.
Surprisingly, the story sympathizes with the Bakkers to the point where you might not want to completely let them off the hook, but you understand how they got there. Tammy’s mother wasn’t one for doling out love so she sought the world’s love through Christian songs. Jim freaking accidentally ran a kid over when he was young and promised God he’d become a preacher if he let the kid live and he did so he held up his end of the bargain. Alas, all the money and power…and unfortunately, two halves of a couple trying to live in a spotlight that can only shine on one with all the jealousies that ensue…yeah I can’t condone what they did but I get how they got there.
Jessica Chastain completely transforms into another person, right down to Tammy’s patented laugh. Andrew Garfield also turns into a Jim Bakker clone. Great acting here.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I could almost make an argument that it was deserving of a best picture nomination. My unbridled speculation is that maybe the Academy doesn’t like movies where religious types aren’t painted out as supervillains. Overall, I thought this biopic was fair – it didn’t let them off the hook for chicanery but it didn’t reduce them to cartoon characters or take a victory lap around them either.
SIDENOTE: How freaking old is Pat Robertson? A number of famous TV preachers are portrayed but Pat is shown as one of the big names in televangelism in the 1960s and the dude is still on TV today.