Jessica Chastain is mesmerizing in Oscar-worthy drama ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’

Jessica Chastain in a pink dress, Andrew Garfield seated with a dog
Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye.’ Searchlight Pictures
  • You have to watch Chastain as disgraced televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.
  • She completely transforms into Bakker and delivers a captivating performance.
  • “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” opens in theaters on September 17.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If it seems like Jessica Chastain is everywhere these days that’s because she is.

She’s going viral while posing with Oscar Isaac on the red carpet for the Venice Film Festival premiere of their HBO miniseries “Scenes from a Marriage,” and she currently has two movies at the Toronto International Film Festival: “The Forgiven” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

It’s the latter that will likely lead to her third career Oscar nomination as she delivers a captivating performance playing infamous televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.

From the mid-1970s through the 1980s Jim Bakker and wife Tammy Faye were two of the biggest names in the growing space of television evangelists. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (directed by Michael Showalter of “The Big Sick” fame) follows Bakker from her humble beginnings as a child fascinated with religion, then moves along as she falls for young Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) at a bible college in Minnesota. The two become a husband and wife team trying to earn a living while preaching, and after connecting with Pat Robertson at the Christian Broadcasting Network they are catapulted into stars.

Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker
Jessica Chastain plays Tammy Faye Bakker. Searchlight Pictures

Jim is the slick-talking preacher/idea guy while Tammy Faye is the performer who, along with singing, also connects with audiences young and old through her puppet shows.

From then on the movie takes off as the fame and power get to Jim and Tammy Faye. After founding the PTL Satellite Network and formulating a theme park, Heritage USA, their marriage crumbles and Bakker goes to prison for fraud and conspiracy in 1989.

Chastain plays Tammy Faye as a woman so driven that she doesn’t know (or doesn’t care) about the shady activity that her man is involved in.

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac
Jessica Chastain is on the hunt for Oscars glory. Stefania D’Alessandro/Getty Images

Chastain’s transformation as the makeup-heavy Tammy Faye is mesmerizing

Thanks to hours in the makeup chair and a squeaky mouse voice, Chastain delivers a performance that is spot-on to the real Tammy Faye (who died in 2007).

But it’s more than her look that is grabbing Oscar attention. Chastain’s acting is top-notch, once more in her career playing a woman who is looking to be taken seriously in a man’s world (which she’s done in the past in movies like “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Miss Sloane,” and “Molly’s Game”).

You can’t help but root for Tammy Faye, especially at the lowest point, having broken up with Jim and completely broke, going out and auditioning for TV work. Clearly, she loves the spotlight but by this point, it doesn’t love her back.

Andrew Garfield dressed as Jim Bakker and Jessica Chastain dressed as Tammy Faye Bakker.
Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker and Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye.’ Searchlight Pictures

Andrew Garfield is perfect as the schlub Jim Bakker

Chastain’s performance is elevated thanks to Garfield beside her.

Never looking to grab the spotlight from her, Garfield is well aware the story is focused on his costar. He creates Jim Bakker into the perfect sidekick. Someone who doesn’t have the stones to make his dreams become a reality until he meets his muse in Tammy Faye.

And the interactions between Chastain and Garfield often lead to great off-the-cuff comedic moments.

Jessica Chastain dressed as Tammy Faye Bakker
Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye.’ Searchlight Pictures

This is one of those movies where the performances outshine the story

There are at least one or two movies (often based on a true story, like this one) that crop up during award season where you’re going to hear more about the performances than the story itself, and this is one of them.

The movie is certainly entertaining, but nothing that would keep you engaged if it weren’t for the work of Chastain and Garfield.

Fortunately, the performances are worth the price of admission.

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” opens in theaters on September 17.