Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Review #1,282: 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye' (2000)

The life of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner is one that could have only emerged from America: A life of fame, adoration and excess, and later, somewhat inevitably, of disgrace and notoriety. Armed with a face of make-up apparently applied by shotgun-blast and an unshakeable, endearing optimism, Tammy Faye was once of the most recognisable faces in America as the co-presenter of The PTL (Praise the Lord) Club, part of the Christian Broadcasting Network which she and husband Jim Bakker used to draw audiences in the millions. In 1987, when Jim was accused of raping Playboy model Jessica Hahn and sent to prison for defrauding his audience of millions of dollars, Tammy Faye stood by his side before they divorced a few years later.

She later found love in the man who helped build her ex-husband's Christian theme-park Heritage USA, before he was also banged up for tax fraud. Tammy Faye was diagnosed with colon cancer, before making a full, miraculous recovery, and developed a dangerous addiction to prescription medication. The point of Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's documentary is that Tammy Faye is a survivor. It's a label often applied to strong women who have endured hardships. Jim J. Bullock, her co-host on The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show, puts it best when he explains that after the holocaust, all that will remain are cockroaches, Tammy Faye, and Cher. She is a force of nature, her spirit never wavering even when bullying televangelist Jerry Falwell swiped PTL from underneath them, despite having spent most of her waking life in front of the camera with Jim and their two children.

With narration from RuPaul and the film's chapters introduced by hand-puppets in a style akin to Babe, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is clearly embracing the camp appeal of its subject. Her famous eyelashes and impressive set of lungs have made her a gay icon, but there are also old clips of Tammy Faye embracing the gay community and a man with AIDS, topics that were, back then, shunned by mainstream media, never mind the Christian media. It will surely disarm most viewers who go into the film with their noses turned up at Tammy Faye's passion for spreading the word of God, showing her to be a warm and charismatic figure who took an interest in and offered a voice to people from all walks of life. The documentary clearly believes that she is innocent of any wrongdoing in the crimes her ex-husband was convicted for, but it can be criticised for failing to investigate more. Still, this is a fitting tribute to an indomitable woman living a fascinating life. Tammy Faye Messner died in 2007.

Directed by: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Starring: Tammy Faye Bakker, RuPaul
Country: UK/USA

Rating: ****

Tom Gillespie

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...