Michael Showalter directs Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield and Cherry Jones in this biopic of the corrupt but glamorous televangelist.
Exists solely as a Best Actress trophy winning salvo. Ultimately a successful one but the rest of the film has an iffyness to it that no amount of cheeky energy can cover up. Made within the settings of a spoof, slathered in an often uncritical jelly when it comes to its titular grifter. How much did she know about the dodgy dealing? How much of an ally was she really to those her religion and beliefs demonised? Was her downfall tragedy… or just good old gaudy excess run its inevitable course? The movie wants to present an unwilling victim and an unlikely hero. Jessica Chastain as an out-and-out rhinestone scumbag won’t bring in the gold. So manipulative sympathy for the devil is the order of the day, just so we know when her mascara runs on camera it ain’t crocodile tears. Andrew Garfield has the more fertile character in the slimy but sexually ambiguous husband… it would be his movie but the edit tries everything to position him back down to a support. Never reaching the heights of The Wolf Of Wall Street (where an embezzling bastard is given zero commiseration) or I, Tonya, this does what it came to do with a colourful blankness. Yet you can’t help feel a little exploited by all the music, glitz, camp and emoting knowing that they never quite get to the heart of the matter.
Perfect Double Bill: Elmer Gantry (1960)
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