culture club

What to Watch: Teen queen slays, Tammy Faye rises again and Alaska sees “Red”

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Whatever your entertainment needs, we got your back (and hopefully your mind) with Queerty’s weekly “Culture Club” column with some of the highlights of new releases, streaming shows, classics worth revisiting, and what to drink while you watch.

The Eye-Opener: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Televangelist and gay icon Tammy Faye Bakker gets the biopic treatment in this new film directed by Search Party creator Michael Showalter. The Eyes of Tammy Faye—based on the iconic documentary of the same name—follows the rise and fall of the mascara-clad TV preacher in fairly standard format, covering her childhood, early years with husband Jim, career in television as part of the PTL Network, and the scandal that brought down PTL and destroyed her marriage. The film also does a fine job of tying in her advocacy within Christianity for the LGBTQ community, as Bakker embraced queer people and showed compassion to AIDS patients at the height of the epidemic.

Much like Judy two years ago, The Eyes of Tammy Faye doesn’t break any new ground as cinema, and features a few glaring omissions (Bakker’s kids are treated as a footnote). Yet, like that film, it does serve as a terrific star vehicle, here showcasing Jessica Chastain’s sensational performance in the lead. Chastain plays Tammy Faye as a woman of endless optimism whose plucky positivity overshadowed fierce business instincts and intelligence. At times, her screen persona seemed like a total put-on, while at others, Tammy Faye seemed totally oblivious to the shady dealings transpiring around her. Chastain exploits that paradox until her performance becomes spellbinding.

Andrew Garfield plays Jim Bakker as a man more obsessed with financial success than evangelizing—a notion the real Bakker seems to only reinforce. Garfield’s Bakker doesn’t hesitate to exploit his followers, his employees or Tammy Faye in pursuit of church fudns. Both Garfield and the film also lean into allegations that Jim Bakker—who was later accused of rape by a church secretary as well as various financial improprieties—carried on bisexual affairs as well. Vincent D’Onofrio ozes slime as Jerry Falwell, the nefarious homophobic preacher who betrayed the Bakkers for his own gain. Both add to the strange fascination of the movie’s story, though make no mistake—this is Jessica Chastain’s show.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye isn’t a great film, but it is great entertainment with a megawatt performance at its center. It’s also a tribute to a woman who had a genuine love for the queer community, and was always proud to show it.

In cinemas September 17. Anyone wishing for a bit more Tammy Faye can check out World of Wonder Presents Plus’ Tammy Faye Fest, which will include the original documentary, various outtake footage as well as the docs One Punk Under God and Tammy Faye: Death Defying.

The Glittering: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

At last, after a slew of COVID-related delays, the movie adaptation of the hit Brit musical arrives on Amazon this week. Based on a true story, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie follows the story of the titular teen (newcomer Max Harwood), an openly gay kind and aspiring drag queen. When Jamie lands a drag mentor in aging queen Hugo (Richard E. Grant), he becomes set on attending his senior prom in drag. Will he defy his school administrators’ edicts to attend out of drag? Will he have the courage to be himself in front of the whole student body?

Give you one guess. The plot of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is fairly straightforward, with the real appeal coming from the movie’s giant production numbers set to glossy, Disney-like pop tunes. Here, director Jonathan Butterell (who also helmed the stage version) shows off his history as a choreographer: the movie movies and sparkles with a fierce, fabulous energy. In the lead, Harwood shows off his ample singing and dancing skills—what a stage career he may one day have. Dramatically though, the movie belongs to veteran Grant, who makes Hugo—a man who witnessed the AIDS epidemic first hand—into the most human character in the movie. Detractors may attack Grant for being a straight man playing a gay role, or may harp on Butterell for not casting a professional drag queen. For our part, we can’t begrudge Grant’s casting: he’s the best thing in the movie.

Much like Cinderella two weeks ago, audiences might find Everybody’s Talking About Jamie an acquired taste. For those that can get onboard with its affirming queer themes and all-in-good-fun attitude, it will offer a glittering, high-energy time at the movies, in or out of drag.

Streams on Amazon September 17.

The Soapy: Our Kind of People

Entertainment powerhouse Lee Daniels brings his latest television outing to the small screen this week, based on Lawrence Otis Graham’s chronicle of the African-American upper class of Martha’s Vineyard. As produced by Daniels and created by writer Karin Gist, Our Kind of People follows Angela (the elegant Yaya DaCosta) as she returns to the city of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts to open a new salon, and reclaim her family name. Of course, the series takes no time in establishing Oak Bluffs as a city rife with secrets, backstabbing, classism, long-lost heirs and secret affairs. Much as he did with Empire, Daniels and Grist channel classic prime time soaps such as Dynasty or Dallas to establish a mood of glamour, excess and scheming. Unlike Empire, however, nobody here seems to be having as much fun as Taraji P. Henson. That said, we still found a lot to enjoy here starting with a winning performance by DaCoasta, and a firey turn by Joe Morton as the JR Ewing of Oak Bluffs, Teddy Franklin.

Arrives on Fox September 21.

The Gleeful: The Big Leap

Imagine Smash set in the world of dance and you’d come up with the general premise of The Big Leap, the new Fox musical show debuting this week. Scott Foley stars as Nick, a down-on-his-luck divorcee who agrees to produce a dance reality show in Detroit. The new show attracts dancers of all ages, shapes and sizes all hellbent on becoming America’s Next Dance Superstar, including former high school sweethearts Gabby & Justin (Simone Recasner and Raymond Cham Jr.) whose relationship has become a bit strained since Justin came out as gay.

The Big Leap borrows from both High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and Modern Family in its postmodernist take on its premise, giving the audience permission to laugh at the silliness of it all—we’re in on the joke. Dance fans will also rejoice in getting a show that finally spotlights movers the way Glee or High School Musical fawned over its dancers. Silly, sweet and occasionally even moving, we offer the show up to anyone who ever took to a stage in tights, or busted a move on the dancefloor.

Debuts September 20 on Fox.

The Smooth: Bayli Stories From New York

Queer R&B artist Bayli drops her debut EP this week, a compilation of smooth and sexy songs inspired by the Big Apple. Bayli takes undeniable inspiration from Nicki Minaj and Aliyah to create her own style that mixes synth and rap into seven tracks that seem designed for some romantic alone time with somebody beautiful. That is fine by us. Our favorite track: “Sushi for Breakfast,” a lesbian love anthem that uses its title as the obvious metaphor. It’s that kind of song.

Streams on YouTube.

The Poppy: Alaska “Red”

Drag star Alaska Thunderf*ck returns with her new single this week, a retro-skewing track that sees the recording artist eschew her usual hardcore dance beats for a more traditional pop sounds. “Red” channels the late 90s pop sounds of Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue into a song all about falling hard at first sight for a beautiful man…and how he has a way of saying things that really piss her off. Hey, who hasn’t been there?

Streams on YouTube.

The Sip: Glitter Bomb

via Shutterstock

In honor of the drag glam of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and the ever-wide, mascaraed Eyes of Tammy Faye, we propose this week’s drink in honor of both films. Trust us, this one will have you wide-eyed and wild, not to mention seeing glitter.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Goldschläger
  • 1/2 Pint Energy Drink

Pour energy drink into a glass. Drop a shot of Goldschläger in and drink.