The Eyes of Tammy Fay: For the first time since late August 2020, I was able to see a movie in a regular theatre since I saw Tenet. I went on a “Cheap Tuesday” when the tickets are about half price. A deal! Usually a newly released, first run movie on a Cheap Tuesday would have packed theatre packing lot and theatre. My how things have changed. I arrived for a 6:55PM showing and there were parking spots available right near the entrance. I had pre-purchased my ticket and was able to show my vaccination status to head in. There ended up being four other people at showtime! Four! Now I wouldn’t say that this new Jessica Chastain movie would be for a mass audience, but it had just premiered at TIFF two weeks before. There was some decent press about the performances by Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain both as Jim and Tammy Fay Bakker, the 80s tele-evangelists. Had Jessica Chastain not been starring I have to admit that I likely wouldn’t be attending. Quite frankly, the subject matter didn’t interest me. I had seen Jim and Tammy Fay live on TV with their PTL Club. I found that they are phony and plastic people who preyed on the weak and the desperate with a gospel in which paying them money led to the path of righteousness, and being granted your wishes. I am not overly religious at all, and so in concept I find the whole business model to be flawed. So I ventured forth to see the performances. Both Garfield and Chastain are very good actors with quality performances in their bodies of work. In this story we follow the life of Tammy Fay from a young impoverished girl in Minnesota with a family life which is challenged. Mom plays at the local church as the organist. Acting Dad stays pretty low key, while Tammy Fay is excluded. Excluded because she is a living example of a child out of wedlock. Mom is ashamed. She finds a clever way to get herself into the church from which Mom kept her away. She grows and heads off to school and early on meets a young Jim. He is ambitious in his bible readings. He looks to “teach” his instructors. Tammy Fay is entranced. They quickly marry and head out on the road, selling their brand of the church. They begin, quite accidentally, for Pat Robertson and his network show (the 700 Club) using puppets to entertain the children who, in turn, would bring their parents. This is a time of Robertson, with others too like Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell and others. They are popular, but in time are cut out by Robertson. So they set up their own show and network. The underlying theme is that Tammy Fay was not the business person, she was a performer and strong believer in people and belief. She wholeheartedly believed in Jim. His scruples were questionable and there are strange business dealings that took place. This later becomes his downfall for which he was jailed (not giving anything away). Tammy Fay was never jailed. I am not sure that I believe that she was willfully blind about the finances of this Ministry, as she saw her residences expand and grow becoming more and more opulent. She never wanted for anything and they lived the high powered life, using funds from their parishioners as their own personal funds. Yes, she cared about people and she was an early believer in treating all people the same, including those with AIDS. She supported the LGBTQ community without hesitation. Still, I get the sense that she was a performer. From first to last. Her trademark heavy mascara and endless tears were a source of humour at the time and for years to come. Incidentally Jim has done his time and is back on TV preaching, scarily enough. Tammy Fay passed away in 2007. I cannot recommend this film, but I am hard pressed at this point to think of a female performance that will garner the Oscar attention. I was distracted by the make up (enlarged cheeks) on both Garfield and Chastain. Chastain’s accent reminded me of Marge Gunderson, played by Frances McDormand, in Fargo. In the end it wasn’t overly compelling but that really shouldn’t surprise me.
I do look forward to more visits to the theatre in October, with at least James Bond’s No Time to Die and also Dune.
I managed to watch two very average movies this past weekend on Netflix, both recent releases.
The Guilty: This stars Jake Gyllenhaal, what could have been a Broadway play, since most of it happens in a single building. It feels similar in structure to the 2002 Phone Booth which starred Colin Farrell and the voice of Kiefer Sutherland. In this version, Jake plays a police officer who is attending a 9-11 call centre as a worker as part of a leave from his on-the-street job. He takes phone calls. He is stressed, angry, and dealing with the issue of trying to see his daughter, all the while trying to answer calls. Then he receives a phone call from a woman who is sounding very anxious. We find out that she is being abducted and she has two young children at home. Jake takes the call and on very limited information looks to piece together what is taking place. Things happen. More things happen and Jake’s character has to address not only this situation, but also a pending court appearance. The court appearance was a new development and I won’t get into those details. Its introduction was delayed as we got to learn more about this main character. There are many close ups of Jake and his emotional roller coaster. He does an admirable job, in revealing how his character is impacted by the things that are happening around him. It feels a little bit hollow as we better understand the title of the movie. But it’s not very satisfying. So I cannot recommend this.
The Starling: Stars Melissa McCarthy, Kevin Kline and her co-star from Bridesmaids Chris O’Dowd who plays her husband in this movie. McCarthy and O’Dowd play a husband and wife who are expecting a new baby. They begin in their baby’s room painting a wall with trees and flowers. Then something happens which changes their lives and sends them in different directions. Despite three very good comedic actors, this really isn’t a comedy. Kevin Kline plays a vet who has in his past some psychiatric experience. He is suggested as someone that Melissa should speak with. The starling, in this film, is a device which uses plenty of CGI to have an interaction with the human beings. It is used more than it likely should be, and it doesn’t really provide the comic punch that the producers were expecting. I liked this even less than The Guilty. It feels forced. It deals with a difficult subject matter for which the spin taken isn’t really appropriate, in my mind.