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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/8/01

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
1999 (2001) - Lion's Gate (Universal)

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/D

Specs and Features

80 mins, PG-13, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English

"Without my eyelashes, I wouldn't be Tammy Faye. I don't know who I'd be, but I wouldn't be me."

Truer words have never been spoken about Tammy Faye. Of all the 80's icons, she has to be one of the most discussed, dissected, put-down, mocked and parodied. On top of all that, after watching The Eyes of Tammy Faye, you'll get the idea that she was also grossly misrepresented. Sure, everything about her is extreme, right down to her unending support of her ex-husband, Jim Bakker. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (co-directors and producers of this film) go to great lengths to paint Tammy Faye as a person who was as affected by the goings-on of her life with Jim Bakker as she was by her portrayal by the media.

If you managed to avoid the evening news at all during the late 1980s, here is the Bakker story in a nutshell - Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker presided over PTL (Praise The Lord), the largest Christian television network in the country. They made millions of dollars for the network (and Jim, the Courts found, for himself) before the network was brought to its knees amid allegations of financial mismanagement and Jim's marital infidelities with uber-tacky, future Playboy vixen, Jessica Hahn. What made this scandal so ripe for front-page, gossip rag fodder was Tammy Faye. Her seemingly never-ending stream of tears, her bout with drug addiction and drama queen antics gave the papers plenty to write about. She sang hymns at Jim's side during press conferences, cried on cue and joked as much the press did about her makeup.

But The Eyes of Tammy Faye isn't just about the PTL scandal. There's just as much information about her life before and after those events. Bailey and Barbato talk with Tammy Faye's family in International Falls, MN, including her brother and aunt ("When she was born, she had perfectly manicured finger nails"). She would later go on to Bible school in Minneapolis, where she met future husband Jim Bakker. They soon left for Hollywood and eventually started a total of three influential Christian networks, as well as the talk show that refuses to go away - The 700 Club. The filmmakers also spend quite a bit of time talking with Tammy Faye's current husband, Roe Messner (who also served time in jail for events unrelated to PTL).

The Eyes of Tammy Faye feels a bit lopsided, because you don't really get a chance to hear from anyone on the other side of the controversy. You hear from Jim Bakker, and Roe Messner and Charles Sheperd, the Charlotte Observer reporters who broke the story. Outside of that, you won't hear from anyone else involved with the matter. That's not for lack of trying on the part of the producers or Tammy Faye herself. She wrote letters to Jerry Falwell, Jessica Hahn and others involved with the downfall of the PTL network, but was either turned down or got no response. But even without that side of the story, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is still a very entertaining film. Tammy Faye is shown for what she is - quirky, lovable, wacky, funny and genuinely likable. Yeah, she's out there at times, but in a charming sort of way. Think of her as the kooky aunt that always shows up at family reunions. You know the one - she's all smiles and giggles till someone spills punch on her dress, and then she's a big, dramatic, teary, mascara-streaked mess who's gonna cry on everyone's shoulder about it. In the end, you know you love her… you're just afraid to admit it to anyone.

When you pop this disc into the DVD player, you'll get a message at the start of the film stating that it's been formatted to fit your screen, which is a bit misleading. The film is presented here in full frame, but this is the way it was shown in theatres as well. Almost the entire film is culled from videotaped footage, and the quality is what you'd expect from videotape. Colors are mostly stable but lack the definition of an image shot on celluloid. I was a bit surprised to see as much detail in the blacks as I did. They're solid throughout the length of the film and exhibit only minor NTSC noise from time to time. Some of the footage looks extremely washed out, with quite a bit of color bleed, but this is only a problem in some of the stock footage used for the documentary. In general, all of the new footage looks very good. The audio is an average-sounding Dolby 2.0 surround track. There's very little in the way of sound effects, so the surround portion of the sound field is reserved almost entirely for music. Most importantly, as this is a completely dialogue-driven documentary, dialogue levels are always stable and clear.

The biggest disappointment with this DVD lies in the lack of features. The only thing you get is the film's theatrical trailer. At one point in time, the film's web site was selling a videotape that contained extra footage shot for the documentary that ultimately did not make it into the final cut of the film. This footage was more lighthearted in nature (including scenes of Tammy Faye making her fudge). The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a short documentary, and this extra footage would have been a nice bonus.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye was an audience favorite at last year's Sundance Film Festival and did well in limited release during the summer of 2000. It was produced in cooperation with Cinemax and is being shown there pretty regularly, so chances are you'll run into this film somewhere. I would have liked more out of the DVD, but as a basic movie-only disc it's not too shabby.

Dan Kelly
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