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The Eyes Of Tammy Faye


The Eyes Of Tammy Faye

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As her husband's religious-broadcasting empire collapsed in a heap of sexual and financial improprieties, Tammy Faye Bakker's face twisted into a clown-like caricature of scorned womanhood, with tears cutting a river delta through her trademark raccoon mascara. Despite the public indignities brought about by Jim Bakker's sordid encounter with Jessica Hahn and the subsequent demise of the PTL and Heritage USA, she's never resisted the chance to return to the camera, even though it's always made for a cruel lover. Her career may have reached its nadir with the grating (and mercifully short-lived) syndicated program The Jim J. And Tammy Faye Show, but the humiliations continue unabated. Now remarried as Tammy Faye Messner, she's been reborn as a campy gay icon in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, a patronizing and exploitative documentary that purports to champion her resiliency and tolerance while making a case for her as the next Joan Crawford. Narrated by RuPaul Charles—a credit serving as the first indication of the film's snarky insincerity—The Eyes strains to revise the media account of the Bakkers' steep drop from televangelist pioneers to hucksters who bilked viewers out of millions. While directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato concede that Heritage USA was built at least partly on Jim Bakker's hubris and greed, they blame his fraud conviction on media distortion and the shrewd betrayal of other power-hungry TV zealots. (In all this editorializing, their only show of restraint is to not add hand-painted flames around images of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.) Deposited in a lonely Palm Springs condo while her new husband serves out his prison sentence, Tammy Faye makes a classic tragedienne, willfully vamping for Bailey and Barbato's real-life Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? The Eyes Of Tammy Faye indulges her emotional exhibitionism, but the filmmakers' questionable motives lead to yet another betrayal, as she's reduced to nothing more than a melodramatic caricature. If they'd had an ounce of compassion, they would have kept the cameras away from her.