In 1968, one of the brightest representatives of the country stage, George Jones (Shannon), increasingly misses his shows because of his addiction to alcohol. Housewife Virginia Pugh (Chastain) decides to show her musical material to the singer and gradually starts a relationship with him, taking the pseudonym Tammy Wynette.
In addition to Baz Luhrmann’s steroidal Elvis, 2022 has so far managed to do without conventional biographical projects about musicians (the Whitney Houston biopic will become available to most only at the beginning of 2023). In December, “George and Tammy” appeared on Showtime, which did not need extra ambition with pomposity. The simplistic aesthetic is quite in tune with the “voices from the people” on which the country genre is built, but it also does not have a share of the sincerity and attraction developed in real life. In addition to the central and notoriously successful acting work, the show returns to directing Australian John Hillcoat (“Lawless”), whose accuracy and emotional maturity clearly fit into the plot and atmosphere of “George and Tammy”, but do not allow to soar above the traditional transitions and in haste of decorated vignettes.
The series is based on the memoirs of the couple’s daughter Georgette Jones. Beginning in the late 1960s, Tammy finds herself suffocating in her marriage to the jealous music producer Don. Having endured all kinds of abuse, the woman remains emotionally depressed, which is directly expressed in her woeful discography, which forever changed the image of a woman in patriarchal Nashville, the capital of country music. Wynette’s eyes and voice express without words the apathy and genuine sadness that temporarily fade into the background when meeting Jones. Asked to act as the opening act for a US tour, Tammy is imbued with the singer’s loneliness. George’s real name is Glenn; he, like many others, did not know parental love in childhood, drowning his reflection in a fiery liquid. After moving in with Jones, Wynette traded one abusive relationship for another, but retained her creative self-sufficiency and developed a unique sympathy and duet scheme with Jones.
Hillcoat demonstrates familiar paths to the audience, amuses with the scandalous going on behind the scenes and closed doors of dressing rooms, does not disdain elements borrowed from soap operas. Chastain is once again working with screenwriter Abe Sylvia, whose project The Eyes of Tammy Faye won her an Oscar this year. The new namesake is much more interesting to watch: the actress again uses solid vocal skills, forgets about optional makeup and analyzes her character much deeper than before. Chastain first shared the screen with Shannon in the 2011 existential drama Take Shelter, which paved her way into film. A decade later, the actors find themselves in plot-wise, more simplified circumstances, but they retain attraction and mutual understanding.
The script irritatingly jumps from intimate revelations immediately to the stalls, preventing the central characters from revealing themselves. The series features some of the couple’s biggest hits, including the not-too-modern Stand By Your Man and heartbreaking Apartment No.9. Sharing a bed and a stage is unbearable, but “George and Tammy” make you listen, compose a song or two and each disperse to their own tragedy, complementing each other and remaining only half happy.