The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato
Narrated by RuPaul Charles
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
August 14, 2000

Although I've never seen it or even heard of it, I'm sure that A&E made a "Biography" episode about Tammy Faye Bakker at some point. It's a very good series, and I'm sure they did a good job making it, but it couldn't possibly fit her persona as well as The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a new documentary from Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (the team behind the cult favorite Party Monster).

In case you were too young or too obsessed with your stock portfolio in the 1980s to remember, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were at the center of one of the biggest scandals of the time. After helping to form the still-existent Christian Broadcasting Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network, they went out on their own to form the PTL ("Praise The Lord") Network in 1976. They enjoyed a wider audience than any Christian broadcasters thanks to early access to satellites.

They continued to put on their show of singing, praying, and asking for money for several years. They even built Heritage USA: the first Christian-oriented theme park, which enjoyed more visitors than any non-Disney parks in the country. However, in the mid-1980s, their world fell apart after accusations of crooked money management and a highly publicized affair between Jim and Playboy model Jessica Hahn.

They have since divorced, and Tammy Faye has tried to get back into the spotlight, but she keeps drifting further into obscurity. However, her history of reaching out to the gay community (including being the first Christian broadcaster to interview a gay AIDS victim) has helped her get the attention of these filmmakers. They even got RuPaul to narrate the film, which would seem odd for any other person associated with religion.

For Tammy Faye, though, it seems natural. She has been the target of so much ridicule, but she is clearly beyond parody. A tongue-in-cheek tone is created immediately when the first inter-title comes up, with two puppets in the corner reading it in unison (a gimmick stolen directly from Babe, of course). Yes, the audience is allowed to laugh at Tammy Faye, but the film also stirs up some sympathy for a na´ve country girl who got way in over her head.

The result is an enjoyable, wacky experience. We learn a little more about a once-public figure and have some fun along the way.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000)

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The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000) -- VHS
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000) -- DVD


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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan