Rosemary's Baby: TV Review
NBC's remake of the classic Roman Polanski film is ill-advised and pointless.
Pray for Rosemary’s baby, indeed.
That was the tagline to Roman Polanski’s famous and acclaimed 1968 film, based on the book by Ira Levin, but it might as well be a warning about NBC’s ill-conceived miniseries remake.
Oh, this one’s tagline is “Fear is born,” which in many ways tells you all you need to know about their difference -- hey, watch out for that anvil.
The two-night, four-hour “miniseries event” as NBC likes to call it, kicks off tonight and stars Zoe Saldana in the role made famous by Mia Farrow. This remake moves the film out of New York and to Paris, normally a mistake but in this case a decision that provides one of only three reasons to watch it.
There are a lot of shots of Paris, which are beautiful to behold and may distract you from the fact that doing this remake was a ridiculous idea.
Zoe Saldana. She’s beautiful to behold and she may distract you from the fact that doing this remake was a ridiculous idea.
Zoe Saldana in her underwear.
There you have it. I saved you enough time to watch the original movie.
However, if you must forge ahead and watch this version, take as much joy from those three elements as humanly possible. Rewind as necessary. One point where this might be especially helpful is when you start realizing that Rosemary’s concerns that something’s not quite right have started to pile up like little annoyances. It may be true that in the original movie Farrow’s deepening sense of spiraling into something awful should have moved her to action, but part of the psychological terror is that we as people are sometimes unwilling to accept incontrovertible evidence because we desperately wish it to be untrue.
The original’s success was that it was creepy without being over-the-top and Rosemary’s naïve nature lets her get too far down the path to decisive counter-measures (and then, ultimately, allows her to possibly convince herself everything will be fine regardless).
In this remake, Saldana’s proactive worry is more pronounced and thus frustrating, as are so many of the lighter-weight dramatic moments, the more obviously ominous cues (watch out for that anvil!) and the far heavier hand that director Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa, The Wire) uses to make things more obvious than they need be.
Not even Saldana in her underwear can overcome that, nor the fact that her husband Guy (Patrick J. Adams, Suits) isn’t quite convincing enough as, well, her husband and, more egregiously, someone who could head up an English department (even at a culinary school).
So much of this remake loses the original’s subtlety (no doubt decades of more pointed horror movies have taken their toll) that outside of the aforementioned three worthwhile elements everything seems to be a waste of time. Although bits of the story have been tweaked (for no good reason), the skeleton is there: Rosemary’s husband has seemingly made a pact with devilish people so that he can have a job to support his family which will soon include the spawn of Satan but otherwise has some really nice French suits to make it all better.
Masterminding this bit of evil are Roman Castevet (Jason Isaacs) and his wife Marguax (Carole Bouquet) and their incredible French apartment. Yes the film took place a long time ago for those who might be younger and thus in search of a fresh take on a classic, but there’s no need to be coy about spoilers. That baby is bad news.
But, of course, the whole argument about remakes usually boils down to “why?” first and foremost and there really is no good reason here. Secondarily, if you decide to take on a classic, well, your talent should exceed your grand testicles and that’s not the case here, as writers Scott Abbott (Queen of the Damned) and James Wong (Final Destination 3, American Horror Story) try to modernize and tweak the Polanski-Levin original.
Network miniseries are also not the ideal place to find real dramatic gems, so that should also be red flag. Unlike Rosemary, you shouldn’t ignore those flags, because they pile up quickly here. No good can come from this conception -- go rent the original if you must.