The Many Saints of Newark

Written by Alexander Reams

85/100

14 years ago one of the most acclaimed TV shows of all time ended. A time when all TV audiences expected catharsis for the characters they’d grown to know before the end. David Chase instead decided to fade to black not giving that final closure to Tony Soprano. Something that has haunted audiences since its air date. Chase returns to the Soprano’s world 30 years prior to it’s first season. Focusing on who was in power before Tony Soprano ever took over.

Dickie Moltisanti. Moltisanti, translates to Many Saints in English, of Newark. While also attempting to tackle the 1967 Newark race riots, and provide a backstory for Tony Soprano. Sounds like a lot to cover in a 120-minute film? That’s because it is. 

Rarely will a film fall into the issue of being too short, more often than not it’s an issue of being too long. Many Saints is too short. The film has so much it wants to cover and gives itself far too little time to cover each of these events. This could have easily been a 150-165-minute film and it likely would’ve worked even better and been decidedly more effective. Unfortunately, David Chase’s hubris wouldn’t let him make a longer film. A tragedy for sure, because once the film began I never wanted it to end. 

Chase’s new leading man is an actor that I have long loved, and have waited for him to get his big break. Something Chase and I have a shared sentiment about. The brilliant Alessandro Nivola. He has not only been good for years, he is frequently the standout in films where he is relegated to supporting roles. In The Many Saints of Newark Nivola is leading the biggest film of his career and he takes advantage of it. He embodies this mythological god that is Gentlemen Dickie Moltisanti (the father of future Tony Soprano victim Christopher Moltisanti) with such class and brutality that even Tony Soprano would be frightened. 

Filling out the rest of this world is Corey Stoll as a hilarious Uncle Junior, Vera Farmiga as the wonderful asshole Livia Soprano, Jon Bernthal as a somewhat forgettable Johnny Boy Soprano, Leslie Odom Jr. as a gleefully angered Harold McBrayer, Ray Liotta pulling double duty as Hollywood Dick Moltisanti and Salvatore Moltisanti (I was just as surprised as you when I saw this for the first time.), Michaela de Rossi as Giuseppina Moltisanti, Hollywood Dick’s wife, and Gentlemen Dickie’s “goomar” (don’t ask, it just makes it even weirder.). Billy Magnussen as a pitch-perfect Paulie Walnuts, John Magaro doing his best Steven Van Zandt impression with Silvio Dante, and Samson Moeakiokla as Big Pussy. Finally, Michael Gandolfini, son of James Gandolfini, is a younger version of his father’s iconic turn as Tony Soprano.

From the get-go, we are introduced to this world with a level of respect to the audience. Chase expects you to have seen at least part of the show, if not all of it. While it is difficult to talk about the film without spoiling some fantastic reveals, I will say that watching Nivola chew up every scene he is in is a great pleasure to watch, and his, brief bits with Gandolfini are nothing short of electric, though rushed. An issue that hangs over this film like the FBI watching Tony’s house. Calling it “the formative years of Tony Soprano” is more than a bit misleading. The film treats it as an afterthought, instead of the main plot. For which the blame falls on Chase. 

The time jumps in the film are not surprising but continue this overarching issue of being rushed. However in those time jumps we still are gifted with wonderful dialogue between everyone, something Chase can do brilliantly along with strong cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau. Even with all of these strengths in the film, I can’t let go of the fact that it is just too short. It needed to be longer, I think somewhere in Chase’s head he knew that, and if we get another film in this time period, he will hopefully rectify it. The final note he leaves us with is a perfect way to set up another film, while also being a great ending if he doesn’t wish to return to this world, something Christopher Moltisanti wished he could do before it was too late, but Chase will have to do it for him.

The Many Saints of Newark Trailer

The Many Saints of Newark is currently streaming on HBO Max and in wide theatrical release.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: Devil Story (Il était une fois le diable)

Written by Alexander Reams

60/100

Serene. This is the only possible way I can describe the beginning of 1986’s classic zombie horror film Devil Story (Devil Story: Il était une fois le diable) what is to come. A peaceful morning, birds chirping, and a cool morning breeze. The following 75 minutes play out like a gonzo commercial you would see before a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse warning people not to talk or text. A figure continuously terrorizes people. A zombie (we assume) is terrorizing a community in France, oh and they just happen to be dressed in a SS uniform. Yes. A Nazi uniform, I don’t understand it either.

Fantastic Fest 2021

The figure is not only one of deformity, but also antisemitism. Metaphorically representing the continued disdain that the Germans had towards the rest of the world at this time. He is dressed in a Nazi uniform… why? We don’t know. He could’ve picked it up along his travels, or died in it. Either way, it is his attire now. Which unfortunately plays as a shock for shock value. A common mistake I’ve found in French horror, they assume the audiences want to see gore and death for that very reason. Instead of providing any form of reason to why we are seeing what is happening. 

Thankfully, the zaniness presented is something out of my dreams. I loved the cheesiness of the violence. Every blood spatter looks like a Dollar Tree Halloween blood bottle. Every step is accompanied to a over-the-top score that borders on intrusive. There is more style than substance, which is truly unfortunate. I’ve always been a proponent of directors having a style to their films, it’s exactly what separates those films from standard fare. However it is a fine line to walk, as well as a difficult one that was not balanced well by Bernard Launois that ultimately takes away from the entire film.

Devil Story Trailer

Devil Story was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Fantastic Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Capsule Review: Shark

Written by Alexander Reams

63/100

Ever since Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, no one has looked at a body of water the same. That impending fear in the back of our minds that at any moment a shark can come and eat us always keeps us on our toes. In Nash Edgerton’s Shark, it’s not as physical as a metaphorical shark in the form of a jokester. Like its animalistic partner, jokesters are always lying in the shadows, waiting for the climax of their latest bit. Here, Edgerton is joined by Rose Byrne, whose comedic tendencies mesh well with the writer-director-actor-producer Edgerton. Byrne and Edgerton meet, fall in love, and after Byrne conducts a frightening prank on Edgerton’s “Jack”, he asks her to marry him, to which she says yes. That is the kickoff into the honeymoon, where they are going to swim in the ocean (clearly they didn’t take Jaws as a warning sign). Everything from here on is filled with surprises, shock, and dark humor. These are all things that can work well together if taken seriously. In there lies the issue with Edgerton’s latest. The film never takes itself seriously for its benefit and negative. By never taking itself seriously, there is no way to actually be shocked (besides visually, but the shock leaves hilariously quick). I digress, this was still a fun film that made me want to watch the previous entries in the story of “Jack” and see what other pranks he manages to screw up and still pull off.

Shark was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Oscar Reflection | Best Picture & Best Director from the 81st Academy Awards

Written by Alexander Reams

65/100

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire 

Best Director: Danny Boyle; Slumdog Millionaire

In these retrospectives, Alexander will be going through the Best Picture and Best Director winners for the Academy Awards, discussing the history, the films as a whole, and adding some hindsight to the (almost always) outdated Academy.

We’ve all imagined being on those afternoon game shows where people win massive amounts of money. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire explores what would happen if we won , while also being a surprise in the director’s filmography, given his past films at the time included Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and The Beach. A feel-good movie about someone from the slums who finds success in the unlikeliest of places didn’t seem like a logical next step for Boyle.

The Academy expanded to up to 10 Best Picture nominees, which many including myself have theorized was because of The Dark Knight being snubbed from the Best Picture lineup. This forever changed The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Expanding from what had been the standard for the past 81 years of Oscars. This change was one that was near-universally praised, The Dark Knight being snubbed when it was generally considered to be the best film of 2008 was a shock to everyone and proved a rumor that had been floating around for a while. There is a stigma against comic books & superhero films. I say “is” because while superhero films have taken the populace by storm, there are those who still critique them and can’t find any enjoyment with them. Only in the past 3 years have these popular films broken through to The Academy, with nominations for Black Panther and Joker.

Slumdog Millionaire’s competition was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, and The Reader. All of these films are traditional Oscar fare. Frost/Nixon, Milk, and The Reader are all historical dramas that deal with politics in some shape or form. Something that The Academy has a history of loving (All the President’s Men, The Insider, among a slew of others). The enigma here is Benjamin Button, while it is an epic film, with grand scale, The Academy had been moving away from that genre of film, add in the unusual aspect of the film, and David Fincher’s style (which has proven to be a hit or miss with The Academy), and you have the biggest enigma of the lineup.

First, a bit of history. In 2008 the world had been taken by storm by films like Slumdog Millionaire, The Dark Knight, and Gran Torino. With The Dark Knight seeming to be a frontrunner for a Best Picture and Best Director nomination. But come Oscar nomination day, the only film of the three to receive a nomination was the eventual winner, Slumdog Millionaire. When looking at the plot, you really can’t be surprised. An underdog story is something The Academy has constantly gone for in entries like Forrest Gump, Driving Miss Daisy, Gandhi, and Rocky to name a few. What sets this apart is its location, Mumbai, India, at this point we were four years removed from the tsunami that hit India. This tragedy was a truly brief glimpse at India, filtered through the American media. It was another step towards the Academy honoring international features with Best Picture and Best Director. This would culminate at the 92nd Academy Awards with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite taking home Best Picture and Director. Even though it is a British production, much of the film is in Mumbai’s native language.

Like its narrative, the journey for Slumdog Millionaire’s night at the Oscars was a long and arduous one. Beginning at the 2008 Telluride and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, to the initiated). It premiered at TIFF where it became known as a TIFF classic and won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. This was the jumping-off point for excitement for the film and its Oscar campaign. There was no doubt in its merit for Oscar chances, where it began to snowball and garner universal acclaim. The underdog of Oscar season. Battling it out with heavy favorites The Dark Knight and Gran Torino.

We first meet Jamal (Dev Patel) as he is about to win 20 million rupees. His nervousness and fear are conveyed brilliantly by the future The Last Airbender actor. Patel was a very new voice in acting, with his previous credit being the British soap opera Skins. As he is close to answering the final question, he flashbacks to show us how he got this far in the game, and in life. Unfortunately, all intrigue is lost after this brilliant opening. Everything after this intense opening is seemingly inconsequential to the rest of the film.

The film as a whole was underwhelming. Compared to its numerous stellar reviews. I had expected an exquisite film that has stood the test of time since its release. I found no emotional connection to any of the characters, which in my estimation is due entirely to a poor script by Simon Beaufoy. Characters are frequently introduced, especially in the first act, and we are expected to care about them just because they are children. For example, Latika as a toddler and a teenager, there is no emotional connection other than the fact that she is a child. That is a very cloying move by the writer to add emotional complexity to the story.  While they can be a trope and set up for guilt-tripping, there is a way to do it with class, such as Sunny Pawar in Lion. He conveys the fear and despair of a child having lost their parents and siblings, but does so that it never feels oversentimental and desperate, thanks to the brilliant writing, direction, cinematography, film editing, and music. Here, instead of all of these departments firing on all cylinders, the cinematography and score are intrusive, the writing is poor, and the child actors or doing base emotions at best. And at worst the kids appear as they are reading cards right behind the camera. Having child characters in a film does not mean that we will immediately care about them, and I never did. The scenes with Dev Patel show the promise that’s come to be delivered in his career but do not show off his talent. Instead, Patel looks like he is in a constant state of confusion, during the interrogation scenes, the game show scenes, even in the dance finale, he looks like he does not know what is going on. Which made me feel frustrated throughout, not only about the film but also for Patel as he could have elevated the material if the script was not as bare-bones around its central character. There was more character development for Anil Kapoor’s character “Prem”.

With a crew filled with future first-time Oscar nominees (Film Editor Chris Dickens, Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, and Composer A.R. Rahman) and 2 previous nominees, Danny Boyle (Best Adapted Screenplay for Trainspotting) and Simon Beaufoy (Best Original Screenplay for The Full Monty), you would expect a much higher production value and final product.

By the end of the film, my feelings that had been marinating for the previous 110 minutes had still not changed. When looking back at what was nominated the only nominee that I would even be ok with winning would be David Fincher winning Best Director for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as well as for Best Picture. However, of all the films of 2008, the 2 Best Pictures were not even nominated, Gran Torino and The Dark Knight. If Gran Torino and The Dark Knight were nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, like they were predicted to be, then Gran Torino for Best Picture and Christopher Nolan for Best Director for The Dark Knight. After the ceremony, The Academy expanded to up to 10 Best Picture nominees, which many including myself have theorized was because of The Dark Knight being snubbed from the Best Picture lineup. After 13 years Slumdog Millionaire did not hold up to the expectations set up and  Sometimes history looks favorably on the underdogs, unfortunately, this is not one of those times.

Slumdog Millionaire Trailer

Slumdog Millionaire is currently available to stream on Hulu and Paramount+ or to rent on purchase on most VOD platforms.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: The Exorcism of God

Written by Alexander Reams

54/100

Religious horror has been a niche genre since the birth of horror. The idea of mixing the idea of God (religion) with Satan (horror) is one of my favorite genres across all of film. I still remember seeing The VVitch and Apostle for the first time and those films being my gateway into this genre of horror filled with a huge variety of religious iconography. The Exorcism of God is no different, the religious influences are clear, the vision, not as much.

Alejandro Hidalgo’s The Exorcism of God is another interesting entry into this niche. Clearly inspired by one of the greatest horror films of all time, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Instead of following the possessed girl, we follow the priest who performs the exorcism on her. Played masterfully by Will Beinbrink, who commits an egregious act during the exorcism that he is able to hide for nearly 2 decades before it begins to weigh heavily on his soul. Playing off Beinbrink for most of the film is Joseph Marcell’s Father Lewis, while not on the level of Beinbrink he still does a serviceable job.

Fantastic Fest 2021

The film also takes a fresh approach, instead of trying to mock or poke fun at religion, or people’s beliefs, and instead choosing to attack the people within it and their own hypocrisy. It has been long public of the misdeeds of the Catholic Church and their predatory behavior towards minors. This take feels fresh, despite the horrendous and irreprehensible act that happens in the opening scene.

Hidalgo is not only directing but also co-writing with Santiago Fernandez Calvete. Pulling near double duty here clearly took his focus off each position. The film constantly feels unfocused from its narrative, instead chose to utilize traditional horror tropes (high violin pitches, jump scares) to try to mask the fact that the film just doesn’t have substance to it. Any semblance of the theme is watered down to it’s dull exposition. There is so much promise here, from the fantastic performance by Beinbrink to the gorgeous macabre cinematography by Gerard Uzcategui, and all of that promise is wasted on a script that could’ve used a few more drafts, and far less jump scares.

The Exorcism of God was screened as part of the 2021 edition of Fantastic Fest.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Fantasia Film Festival 2021 Capsule Review: The Lovers

Written by Alexander Reams

75/100

Love is deaf, dumb, and blind. That feeling of care, admiration, and joy is infamous for taking away all logic in someone’s mind, and what takes over is this chemical reaction in your mind. Such is the case in The Lovers, however this is taken to an extreme, blinding not only the leads, but also the viewer. Now evolved from a saying into a tried and true trope in film. While writer/director Avra Fox-Lerner does employ this in her film, she takes this cliche and makes it her own. Adding a style in both camerawork and dialogue that is very unique, but does not take away from the actors. The plot is simple, a roommate, and possible lover, is stuck in a codependent cycle, but there is more beneath the surface than I expected. I won’t reveal any twists, but I was daftly surprised at the confidence and energy that seeped through the film, and that was exuded by the cast. I constantly felt the blindness that our leads feel when with each other and it helps build fantastic moments of tension, while also letting me think I knew what would happen, then genuinely manage to surprise me. The care and love they had for this project are clear throughout and the final shot is one that stuck with me long after the credits rolled.

The Lovers was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Fantasia Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Fantasia Film Festival 2021 Capsule Review: Pimple on the Nose

Written by Alexander Reams

50/100

Style over substance is a line that is constantly crossed in filmmaking. Whether correctly or incorrectly analyzed, action movies commit this sin the most. However, when approached correctly it can be a fantastic exercise in visual storytelling. Unfortunately, Davide Di Saro’s latest short, Pimple on the Nose, abandons any semblance of a plot, preferring to trade it in for eyegasmic visuals that are far superior to any Pixar film. From the beginning when a teletubbie-Esque character falls through what appears to be a wormhole, the lyrics kick in. Instead of traditional dialogue, everything is sung. The dialogue/lyrics are very reminiscent of songs by “Sparks” and are more just background music than they are affecting the visuals appearing on screen. Despite this, the visuals displayed in this short amount of time have given me images that are seared inside my brain, particularly the first minute of the short. While I was hoping for more from Pimple on the Nose, I find it hard to complain about what I was given, gorgeous visuals that would fit right into a Rick & Morty episode, a song that while not fitting with the images presented is still fun to listen to. I would be remiss if I did not knock the film for not having any sort of plot, however, I can l partially forgive it due to the chutzpah it took to make a vibrant, disturbing assault on the senses that occurs in this short amount of time.

Pimple on the Nose Trailer

Pimple on the Nose was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Fantasia Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Review: Ahed’s Knee

Written by Alexander Reams

86/100

A film that oftentimes wants to forget its heritage. Nadav Lapid’s sophomore effort Ahed’s Knee (also one of the stranger titles of a film in 2021), is possibly the most 2021 a 2021 film can be. Inspired by a story of Lapid trying to decide if the child he welcomed to the world with his girlfriend should be raised Israeli or not.

The film follows a filmmaker who is trying to make a film that condemns the government, while the film is being funded by the government. Am I the only one who sees the irony in that? No? Okay, good. It opens on a casting session, where we also find out why the film is titled its strange name, “Ahed’s Knee” in reference to the title of the film “Y” is making. No name, just a letter. I will admit it was disorienting at first but after 20 minutes I adjusted. While this is the surface level, what lies beneath is even deeper. Lapid is searching for any semblance of hope in his native land in a time of turmoil due to the government influence over the nation, as well as foreign policy, and the ongoing issues with Palestine. Lapid is as much a wanderer as his lead is, walking the earth like “Jules” from Pulp Fiction. These vignettes in the desert continue Lapid’s style of gorgeous cinematography, collaborating again with his Synonyms DP, Shai Goldman. Rarely keeping the camera static, propelling a sense of urgency and chaos, which just so happens to be the mental state of “Y”.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021

Despite all of this, the film falters with a story that does not take the time needed to marinate on its heavy themes, and VERY unique storytelling. You could either blame the writing or directing. This is an issue that unfortunately falls on Lapid either way, as he is commonly his own writer and director. That does however lead to more creative control over what translates from script to screen, something that does help keep the film together. Even still, I found myself confused at multiple points in the film, particularly with one dance sequence that seemingly came out of nowhere. 

A film searching for hope in even the darkest of crevices is something this world needs right now in this season of COVID, political and social unrest, and the feeling of losing freedom. “Y” constantly is fighting something or someone, whether that be the death of his mother, and his denial of that, the continuing issues of casting this character of “Ahed” for his newest film, or the pushback he receives from the Ministry of Culture in Israel. Namely for making a film that condemns the government, under the guise of a warning to other insurgents to not rebel against the totalitarian-esque government.

Ahed’s Knee Trailer

Ahed’s Knee was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Review: The Story of My Wife

Written by Alexander Reams

32/100

Love is a strange concept, those who watch Rick & Morty will know it as a chemical reaction in the mind, and there are others who disregard that definition and go for “you know it when you see it.” In Ildikó Enyedi’s The Story of My Wife, both concepts are thrown out of the window and instead our lead Jakob (yes, I notice the its the same spelling of John Cena’s character in F9, but even Jakob Toretto is far more intriguing than our Jakob here.) portrayed by Gijs Naber’s is introduced in the most masculine of ways, captaining a ship out at sea while dealing with some kind of sickness. He is suggested to go to town and find a wife, as that has solved this issue for many other men. Now have we seen any of these men? No. Is this just a plot device used to introduce Léa Seydoux into the film? Yes. From the opening shot of Gijs Naber, I questioned if he even was a ship captain, his mannerisms, speech, verbiage, was all that of an educated man, which he could very well have been, but compared to his compatriots on the boat, it didn’t make sense.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021

As soon as Léa Seydoux enters the frame, the film dive bombs into another 150 (or so) minutes of absolute dreck. The film is presented, and clearly wants to be an odyssey of a man finding love, but is instead drowned by watered down dialogue that is bound to make you as sick Jakob was. The Story of My Wife is a film with a 169 minute runtime. Co-Writer/Director Ildikó Enyedi clearly let the pace get away from her and did not realize the scope of the picture she was making nor how to control it’s bow. Or perhaps she knew what she wanted to do, and unfortunately failed to do so.

The film suffers from an abhorrent script and direction, which caused it’s players to fail as well. The only gleaming note of kindness I can give this film is in it’s cinematography. Captured by Marcell Rév, a frequent collaborator of Sam Levinson, who shot the film with a mix of guerilla and steadicam style. Shooting angles that make the film stand out visually, along with its production and costume design. Unfortunately that is not nearly enough to save this bloated, wretch of a film. I can forgive a bad film, I cannot forgive a boring film, and this film is boring with a capital B. Film is supposed to sweep us away to another world and tell us stories that help us escape reality, here I wanted reality to come back after 20 minutes because what is going on outside in the world is so much more intriguing than this garbage.

The Story of My Wife Trailer

The Story of My Wife was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Review: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Written by Patrick Hao

45/100

In past thirty years, the famous televangelist, Tammy Faye Bakker, has gone through a rehabilitation of her image, especially in the gay community. A lot of that has to do with her openly talking and accepting gay men during AIDs epidemic on her show, something that would still be unheard of today in the evangelical community. Another reason might be the opulence of Tammy Faye. Her famous makeup, iconic Joan Crawford “eyes,” and high-pitched squeak of a voice are a heightened form of femininity in a way that makes her ripe to become a gay icon. Her status grew with the 2000 documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye, directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, two directors whose subjects are often gay icons.

It is with this context that brings The Eyes of Tammy Faye, an adaptation biopic of the famous 2000 documentary. The director Michael Showalter, a staple of sketch comedy groups the Slate, has been dutifully directing nice, easygoing dramedies such as The Big Sick and My Name is Doris in the last few years. When it comes to his direction of The Eyes of Tammy Faye, I couldn’t quite understand why her story needed to be told.

Told like a standard biopic (it even opens with Tammy Faye getting ready for one final big performance) the film portrays the Tammy Faye story with a pitying reverence.  We see Tammy Faye grow up in a religious home, one in which she is ostracized by the community because her mother (played by the always dependable Cherry Jones) is considered a harlot for having Tammy with her first husband. But this is presented as what fueled Tammy’s love of God.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021

Eventually, an Icarus like class fall which permeates these types of movies begins to take place. At the height of their power, excess of money and materialism by both Bakkers begins to overtake their priorities. Tammy Faye, however, is all but exonerated from any misuse of funds – something that was also a problem with the original documentary. Instead, she is portrayed as being blissfully oblivious to any wrongdoing, choosing to stay silent instead of asking questions.

That is the biggest problem with both the original documentary and Showalter’s direction. It is too reverential to Tammy Faye’s story and confuses any messages or themes that a viewer might come away with. Showalter does not have the ability to be a satirist like Scorsese did with Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street. Nor does the film ever give reason for us to empathize with Tammy Faye’s choices. Any criticisms of American evangelicals or the cult of celebrity seems hollow and well-trodden. This is all done much better on HBO’s woefully under-seen The Righteous Gemstones, a satire with a more biting edge that does not have to pay deference to a cult icon.

If this movie offers anything, it is a vehicle for Jessica Chastain to get an Oscar nomination. Her performance as Tammy Faye Bakker is not embarrassing but is the type of unrestrained performance  that is fodder come Oscar time. She, like the real-life Tammy Faye is going to garner a lot of attention for her showiness but leans too heavily on makeup and prosthetics.

Only towards the end was there a sense that the filmmakers had any grasp on why this story is worth telling. But, by then it is too little too late.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye Trailer

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is currently screening in limited release and was feature at the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.