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A documentary look, mostly through the eyes of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, at her rise and fall as a popular televangelist with husband Jim Bakker. Traces their rise: her teen marriage to Jim; their children's TV show (she was a puppeteer and singer), success founding the 700 Club, co-founding the Trinity Broadcast Network, and starting PTL Network; her nondenominational version of Christianity reaching out to all; and, their building of Heritage USA, a theme park. Things fall apart as money woes mount for Heritage and for Jim, as Tammy takes pills, and as Jerry Falwell takes PTL. Jim goes to prison; she remarries, finds herself alone again, yet remains unsinkable. Written by
Sympathetic Portrayal Of Tammy Faye Is Worth Watching
I had no idea what to expect from this documentary about the life of the recently deceased Tammy Faye Bakker/Messner. Back in the '80's my wife was a fan of the Bakker's; I never was. I never cared for their glitzy, showy style of ministry and I never cared for the constant appeals for money, money and more money or the theology that seemed to say that if you didn't have a lot there was something wrong with you. Having said that, I can't deny that their ministry had a positive effect on many people even though I was largely revolted by it. So, I watched this out of curiosity. Tammy Faye is, after all, a fascinating person; one who has stepped out of what would normally be thought of as the traditional "fundamentalist" circles to embrace a variety of people as personal friends, from homosexuals to porn stars while still identifying herself very much as an evangelical Christian. For that, she deserves applause.
Narrated by drag queen RuPaul Charles (which says something about the esteem in which Tammy Faye is held in circles not normally friendly with evangelical Christianity), the documentary is very friendly to Tammy Faye, and it certainly exposes the sordid side of the ultra-wealthy and ultra-powerful Christian broadcasting community. (I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but Jerry Falwell - who I also never liked a bit - comes across here as a mean-spirited, power-hungry hypocrite, and that's being kind as well as probably true!) The first half of the documentary deals with the rise of Jim & Tammy's PTL Ministry and the problems that caused for them even while it was becoming a huge success. Speaking as a pastor, I must confess to a certain amount of sympathy for the televangelists. No one goes into ministry expecting to become rich and powerful, and when that happens to a very few, those very few probably get more easily overwhelmed by it and caught up in it than those who've planned for wealth and power all their lives, simply because it's so unexpected and they're so unprepared for it. The documentary certainly shows that trap overcoming Jim Bakker (and, to a lesser degree - perhaps because it's filmed from her perspective - Tammy Faye.) I found the PTL story both fascinating and tragic. The second half of the movie documents Tammy Faye's life post-PTL. It's an impressive story of a woman learning to stand on her own and overcoming some pretty big odds to do it. The story only goes as far as her second husband Roe Messner's release from prison after serving two years for bankruptcy fraud, so there's nothing about her spin on "The Surreal Life" or her final days before her cancer finally took her life.
Tammy Faye was a fascinating person. Even those who weren't fans of hers can enjoy and appreciate this film. I know that because I wasn't a fan and I did enjoy this. The only truly irritating part was the puppets who introduced each segment! Losing a mark also for being obviously biased, I still give this an 8/10.
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