'Rosemary's Baby' Needs a Little Humor

by Jedd Beaudoin

4 September 2014

This adaptation of Rosemary's Baby misses out on a lot of the charms of Roman Polanski's original.
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Rosemary's Baby

US DVD: 19 Aug 2014
UK DVD: 19 Aug 2014

There’s really not much to say about this miniseries remake of Rosemary’s Baby. There are some who believe that Roman Polanski’s 1968 adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel should have been left alone. Others who have suggested that a remake might have been OK but what, for many, amounted to a made-for-TV movie should not have been part of the bargain. You have to hand it to Agnieszka Holland for giving it a try, but what she emerged with is predictably less than what Polanski gave us, and resultantly not as good.

This time out, Rosemary (Zoe Saldana) and Guy (Patrick J. Adams) Woodhouse aren’t in cheery old New York, but instead in Paris. Guy’s not an actor, but instead an academic who has a novel bubbling inside him but just can’t seem to get it out—at least, not since Rosemary had a miscarriage. But then things change, as they always do, and the Woodhouses meet the Castavets. Before long, Guy and Rosemary are living in the same exclusive building as Roman (Jason Isaacs) and Margaux (Carole Bouquet), and from there things really take a turn for the weird.

Guy’s captivated by the narcissistic Roman, and before long the problems with the old mental sperm bank upstairs have rolled away. After this, Guy has a major novel on his hands. Shortly after this, Rosemary becomes pregnant, and all the things the Woodhouses could have possibly wanted are coming their way—except now that they have them nothing is quite as good as they imagined. You know the rest.

What’s missing here is the comedy that Polanski’s brilliant and vivid film possessed. There are some who see the film for the first time and find it weird that the villains were the elderly. But their eccentricities (aside from being avowed Satanists) were endearing. The middle aged Castavets are just smug. Well, Roman is; Margaux is dull enough that she might just as well be part of the set. And, yes, Guy was self-absorbed in the original, but there was a playfulness that he and Rosemary shared in the film’s early scenes that’s absent here. Perhaps that’s because Saldana and Adams have virtually no chemistry. They look good together, but Adams plays Guy like an emasculated suburbanite who wouldn’t dream of letting The Horned One get jiggy with his little lady—not even for a book that could turn the world on its ear.

Saldana, on the other hand, is almost too confident to play the naïve Rosemary, who’s been boondoggled into loving a chump like guy. At least she has a screen presence that’s unforgettable and the ability to sell her portrayal even if it seems a little off the mark. Saldana’s a remarkable actress who, with the right role, could bust some heads.

There are other players in the cast, and other plot points that seem tagged on enough that they hardly warrant mentioning here. A French inspector who comes close to discovering the evil that lies in the heart of the Castavets, a well-intentioned companion to Rosemary who dies in a freak accident. But those characters seemed contrived and their deaths come straight from The Omen and lack the menace of the ordinary that the story really needs.

There are also problems with believability. We can suspend our disbelief, but the medicine as its practiced in this version stretches our patience and makes you want to shout, “That won’t work in 2014!” The release year for Polanksi’s film, 1968, allowed for some liberties with our fair doctors but our brave new world would never allow a woman to really care Satan’s spawn to term without someone noticing.

Stretching what was a little more than two hours for the big screen into something like four hours for the small screen was a risk as well, and it is clearly one that did not pay off. After the first moments of the second act, we begin to see where the story has been stretched to fit for time and from there the whole shebang moves painfully slow. You’d be forgiven if you checked your watch more than a few times, or even started gaming on your phone.

That NBC thought this was a good idea is no real shock. The network has done wonders with Hannibal, delivering a series that is arguably better than the theatrical releases which it draws its inspiration from. But the peacock can’t work its magic on everything, and this take on Rosemary’s Baby more than amply explains why. Yet, in the end, his isn’t quite as bad as you might imagine. There are moments of mild pleasure; unfortunately, they just don’t add up in any significant way, certainly not enough to create an entire miniseries around this story.

The DVD set has two featurettes, including a making-of and one on the production design. The latter is almost more interesting than anything seen in the miniseries itself.

Rosemary's Baby


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