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An outdoor barbecue turns into a stage for uneasy debate in this scene from “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” The film, which chronicles the rise and fall of televangelist couple Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, stars Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain in the lead roles.
The sequence, which takes place as Jim and Tammy Faye are becoming more popular on the Christian Broadcasting network, includes a gathering thrown by that network’s head, Pat Robertson (Gabriel Olds). Jim is at a table with Robertson and other leaders of the world of televangelism, including Jimmy Swagger (Jay Hughley) and Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio).
Tammy Faye is initially seated at another table with the wives, but decides that the conversation seems more interesting at the men’s table and, with more subtlety, makes her way to join them.
“I wanted To show the extent to which Tammy is trying to work and be seen and heard in a man’s world,” said Michael Showalter.
He did this with visual as well as audio cues. When Tammy Faye drags a seat across the table, the chair scratches the floor so loudly that people stop watching. “We amplified the sound of napkins on her lap and silverware,” Showalter said. “All she’s doing is disrupting this kind of insular Boys Club thing they’re all doing to each other.”
The intention was to show how disruptive people find Tammy Faye’s behavior, but also to shine a light on a man who was always breaking norms. A discussion between Falwell and Tammy Faye includes her view of the need to fight against “liberal agendas, feminist agendas, gay agendas”. Tammy Faye disagrees.
“I love my country,” she replies, “but America is there for them too.”
“The central conflict that ignites between him and Jerry Falwell in this scene is the central theme of Tammy Faye’s arc throughout the film,” Showalter said.