Jessica Chastain, a woman’s wren under a cascade of tawny hair, is a war machine. When he’s not working for the Hollywood mainstream, he ‘also’ produces his own films whenever he can. She did it for the HBO prodigy series “Scenes from a Wedding”, she did it for Michael Showalter’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”, the opening film of the Rome Film Fest, which places her in pole position for the next Oscar. It is the story of an involuntary camp icon who became such after Randy Barbato and Fanton Bailey’s documentary about Tammy Faye Bakker (2000), which Jessica cites as her primary source of inspiration.
The parable of the media empire created between the 1970s and 1980s by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, tele-preachers at the head of a religious broadcaster with 20 million users and a Christian theme park, is relatively uninteresting here in Italy. , because we have no memory of the huge scandal for various frauds that overwhelmed them and sent him to prison. Nor does the biopic have noteworthy artistic qualities: from the opening films of the festivals, more is normally expected. It is above all an opportunity to enjoy the extraordinary incarnation offered by Chastain, unrecognizable under prosthetic prosthetics and clown make-up – the legendary spider web of false eyelashes – which have made the real Tammy Faye a mocked caricature. And the actress sings – very well – imitating the little ‘Betty Boop’ voice that made the original so popular.
The rise of the couple, launched on TV by a children’s program on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network in which she ‘catches’ children with puppets of sure faith, is governed by the most grotesque kitsch. He (Andrew Garfield) preaches a consumerist God who will grant devotees eternal wealth. She has to redeem a childhood in a very poor and bigoted family, with her divorced mother who hides and mortifies her as a symbol of her sin. From devotees they suck up donations in spades.
Obviously I am supporters of the most radical republican campaigns, against ‘progressives, feminists and homosexuals’, alongside Reagan (when he gets out of jail, he will also support Trump). But Tammy Faye – this tells the film – has an extra streak of sincerity, which makes her reject ideological ostracisms in the name of God’s infinite love and makes her, over time, a victim of her husband’s hypocrisy (secretly gay) and drug addiction. As a cross-section of the poisonous manipulation that hatches behind the alleged saviors of souls, the film does not have the strength to be universal, nor to account for the political influence that these realities have exercised on American history over the last fifty years.
Behind the scarlet claws, the brutal 60s curlers, the heavy mascara ready to pour from the tears in favor of the camera, Jessica Chastain delves into the candor of a woman who – as a shopping junkie never satiated with signatures and furs – had an authentic ability to communicate with others. And in his latest return to a Christian TV show – faithfully reproduced from the real one in 1994 – he really manages to move. A larger than life character and the challenge of a grotesque mask: the best springboard to finally win the Oscar.