As a break from most other documentaries as of late, the camp-glam filmmaking team of Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey (Party Monster: The Michæl Alig Story) bring you The Eyes of Tammy Faye, focusing on the overly-made up visage of fallen televangelist Miss Tammy Faye Baker, instead of overly-drugged up ravers or overly-f***ed up porn stars. The film takes a peek behind the foundation to show the real life and times of Tammy Faye, best-known as the now 80’s excess ex-wife of preacher Jim Bakker, the other woman to Jessica Hahn-o-rama, and the single-driving force behind the mascara and fake-eyelashes industries. As a whole, The Eyes of Tammy Faye funnily and lively serves to show that sometimes the best movie characters are real ones and sometimes the best Christians are ones who look like crack-w****s.
Combining lots of found footage–from the Bakker’s religious theme-park glory days to the Jessica Hahn Playboy video debacle–and original interviews with Tammy, Jim, those wacky Bakker kids, Pat Boone, and a myriad of other odd characters, The Eyes of Tammy Faye charts the rise of the Bakker’s Praise the Lord empire to the current state of Tammy inside the confines of her gated-community condo. In tongue-in-cheek relief to the mainstream media’s depiction of the Bakkers as blood-of-Christ sucking thieves, Barbato and Bailey posit that the Bakkers were themselves victims of greedy Christians along the way, from Pat Robertson to Jerry Falwell, and that Tammy Faye herself was more druggedly along for the ride than demonically worthy of the public crucifixion she ended up getting.
From religious puppets to crying on-cue for camera, from the world’s first Christian theme-park to the Betty Ford clinic, from hubby jail-time to temporary talk show hostess, Tammy Faye provides her viewers with one of the most colorful tales to come out of Christianity since Revelations. Ironically, RuPaul doing voice-over and a pair of dog puppets doing vignettes not with standing, what we get is not just the story of Tammy Faye, but a gay-audience targeted film hosted by a drag queen about a queen of camp telling the most basic of Christian tales: temptation to sin to forgiveness to redemption. Tammy Faye, by movie’s end, cuts a wonderfully sympathetic character, a woman who got screwed by The Man while embracing the people, regardless of their denomination or sexual orientation.
For Barbato and Bailey to skillfully convert one of America’s most reviled to one so beloved is impressive, although the boys do get a little fuzzy when it comes to investigating exactly where all that money went that the Bakkers pulled from the pockets of their disciples to fund their Praise the Lord ministries. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, at a few points, gets a little too silly for its subject, but maintains a true rawness and offers a few entertaining surprises that make it, therefore, entirely worth the trip for all God’s children. Praise the Lord!