Showing posts with label docuseries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label docuseries. Show all posts

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Biopics! - "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," "Being the Ricardos" and "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?"

[I review biopics "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," "Being the Ricardos," and "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?"]


The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

A biopic about Tammy Faye Bakker and her televangelist husband, Jim Bakker.

Watching this film, I couldn't help but wonder... why?  Why was this film made?

Why are we supposed to care now about Jim Bakker and his wife, Tammy Faye, 20+ years after they fell from grace in the midst of financial and sexual scandals?  And what led Jessica Chastain to want to play this role, portraying a woman who became a cartoon of herself? Oh, don't get me wrong. The film is well-done and Chastain channels Tammy Faye and Andrew Garfield, who plays Tammy Faye's husband, evangelist Jim Bakker, channels him too, but I don't feel that you would be able to appreciate Chastain's performance if you didn't know who Tammy Faye Bakker was (she died in 2007). So what is the deal?

Turns out, according to an interview with Chastain in the LA Times, while filming "Zero Dark Thirty" back in 2012, she came across a documentary on Bakker by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey (2000) and connected to it.  She secured the rights and went on a ten year journey to get it made.  When asked what she thought of Tammy Faye she said,

"I had this judgment against her, and I realized it's so fascinating how the media can give everyone a collective memory that may not really be the truth.  It's not right.  I wanted to do something about it to honor her...there's shade of me in [her]...Tammy Faye doesn't write anyone off.  I love that she believes everyone is deserving of love without judgment."

So that is how it came to be but again, I can't see that Tammy Faye Bakker is relevant today.  Maybe Jessica has a Tammy fetish because her next role is playing Tammy Wynette!

Tammy Faye and Jim met in college and decided early to devote themselves to God. Their work spreading The Word began with a puppet show ("Get the kids and their parents will follow") and eventually turned into their famous, or infamous, PTL Club.  Despite Tammy Faye's giggly personality, according to this film, she was the brains behind Jim and the power behind what was to be their evangelical empire.  

Chastain was amazing in this - the makeup, the mannerisms, the Minnesota accent.  She got it all spot on.  Likewise, Andrew Garfield was Jim Bakker.  Speaking of the make-up. Tammy Faye was made fun of for, er, famous for, her elaborate make-up, especially outrageous eyelashes and eye shadow.  So the title is apt, though it's also a metaphor for how she saw things. Despite her very conservative religious beliefs, she was also amazingly accepting of the LBTGQ community and the rights of others to be happy, even if she didn't agree with them. 

But is Chastain and the make-up enough to make this film work?  Yes and no.  If you didn't really know who the Bakkers were, you could take this film at face value - a film about a sweet televangelist who just wanted to love people - but if you do remember them, then you may feel that this film didn't go far enough about their deeds and misdeeds and you may ask the same question I did.  


Rosy the Reviewer says...adapted from the aforementioned documentary by Abe Sylvia and directed by Michael Showalter, this is an interesting film that is worth a look, particularly because of Jessica Chastain's "outside of the box" performance. (Netflix)


Being the Ricardos (2021)

A week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

You young-uns out there (anyone born after 1960 is a young-un to me), might not know who these people are or ever seen an episode of "I Love Lucy." But back in the day, that show was a household staple, and the star, Lucille Ball, is arguably considered one of the greatest comic actresses in history, mostly because of her amazing physical humor.  Who can forget Lucy doing a commercial for the supplement vitameatavegamin and getting drunk on it (she didn't know it had alcohol in it) or her stint working in a candy factory where the assembly line got the better of her?  I could go on and on.  "I Love Lucy" was not just a household staple during the 1950's, it was also a staple of my childhood.

This film begins with Lucy (Nicole Kidman) already at the top of her game, but behind the scenes she is anything but the silly Lucy character she plays on her TV show.  In real life she is all business as she works to make her show better, deal with her husband, Desi's (Javier Bardem), suspected infidelities and fight off an accusation from Walter Winchell (no, not the donuts, he was an influential gossip columnist) that she is a Communist at a time when the House Un-American Activities Committee was going after actors suspected of liberal leanings. She was also pregnant and worried about how that would affect the show since TV not only never showed pregnant women, the word itself was taboo.  

And all of that was just one week in her life! 

And that perhaps is the weakness of this film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.  It's all over the place and tries to tackle too many issues.  Yes, Lucy was a shrewd business woman who belied the nutty character she played on TV.  Yes, Desi was a cheater.  And yes, she "checked the wrong box" once on a voter registration card.  But there was more to all three of those stories and the film just didn't delve deep enough, though we do learn some things about Lucy that perhaps we didn't know such as why she never became a big movie star and why she wanted to do a TV show (so she and Desi could be together).

That said, I thought my biggest reservation was going to be Nicole Kidman as Lucy.  I just couldn't see it. But she lowered her voice just enough to approximate Lucy's gravelly voice and was particularly skillful at reproducing some of Lucy's most famous antics on the show. And though she is way too skinny for Lucy or any other 50's woman for that matter, she pulled it all off. I found myself believing she was Lucy.  Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance and J.K. Simmons as William Frawley were also believable.  However, Javier Bardem as Desi?  I didn't buy it.  Much as I respect him for his acting, he was just too beefy and didn't exude the charm that Desi inately had that would explain why he was such a ladies man.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite some reservations, this was still a satisfying film experience that honored Lucille Ball and brought back many happy memories of my childhood, though I could do without being reminded of the House Un-American Activities Commission (Amazon Prime).

What Happened Brittany Murphy? (2021)

An investigation into the mysterious death of actress Brittany Murphy.

Brittany Murphy was a successful actress in the 1990's who made her feature film debut as Tai Frasier in "Clueless" and went on to have critical success in such films as "Girl, Interrupted" and "8 Mile" among others. This two-part docuseries investigates her untimely and mysterious death at the age of 32. And to make matters even more mysterious, her husband died several months later of the same illness under the same mysterious circumstances.

Murphy was a successful actress whose career seemed to take a turn for the worse when she met her husband Simon Monjack, who appeared to be a con man and one of those guys who needed to run things.  Not having much going on before he met Murphy, when they married, he not only took over her career but appeared to take over her life, isolating her from others.  He also seemed to be one of those guys who liked wraiths. She lost a lot of weight after marrying him and didn't look well.  Let's just say that when she met him, she lost much of the joie de vivre for which she was known.  

Her death was a shock to those who knew her.  

An autopsy report said that the manner of death was "accidental" and the cause of death was pneumonia with secondary factors of severe iron-deficienty anemia and multiple over-the-counter drug intoxication meant to treat a cold or respiratory infection. Even more shocking was the death of Monjack soon after of seemingly similar causes. But huh?  There was no real reason for a seemingly healthy 32-year-old woman to just die. Murphy's mother lived with them and, after Brittany's death, she and Monjack went on a talk show tour of sorts, being interviewed about Brittany and there was a decided "ick factor" to that and their relationship (she would supposedly crawl into bed with Monjack to comfort him after Brittany died - double ick).  What was Brittany's mother's role?  We will never know.

This series, directed by Cynthia Hill, tries to figure out just what happened and though, frustratingly, there are no easy answers offered, the implication here is that Brittany was yet another young woman who had everything going for her but was vulnerable to her insecurities and met the wrong guy.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If, like me, you are a sucker for true crime and unsolved mystery stuff, especially when it involves celebrities, you will like this. (HBO Max)   

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)