TV Review: ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Rosemary's Baby TV Review

It’s been nearly two generations since Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” creeped-out moviegoers (while being the stuff of several juicy chapters on celebrity gossip), making a redo more than logical. Into the breach toddles NBC’s four-hour miniseries, an old-fashioned May sweeps come-on that awkwardly puts four days between its two parts. Steeped in gore but deprived of atmosphere, this update on the Satanic classic suffers from its contemporary setting and attendant improvements in obstetrics, while feeling closer in tone to a remake of “The Omen” than of its namesake. Give the network credit for a promotable title and star in Zoe Saldana, but beyond that, well, the Devil’s in the details.

While comparisons to the earlier movie are largely a waste of time, there are two fundamental problems here with the central roles: Mia Farrow’s title character seemed fragile and waif-like, while John Cassavetes — whose part is covered by an ill-suited Patrick J. Adams (of USA’s “Suits”), in what’s really the more demanding character — had a darkness to him that better sold his pivotal willingness to pimp out his wife to the Prince of Darkness.

By contrast, the new movie struggles with the fact that Saldana’s Rosemary feels a little too independent to be so naive, and doesn’t fully convey why her hubby — a blocked novelist — would betray her so horribly by the time the deception must happen.

Directed by Agnieszka Holland from an adaptation by writers Scott Abbott and James Wong, the project effectively uses the framing device that makes clear another couple underwent a similar courtship by Satan-worshipping benefactors, only to have the wife sacrifice herself.

That creates something of a mystery throughout, though perhaps not as great a one as why Rosemary doesn’t become more suspicious when terrible things keep happening to anyone inclined to help her. (One is tempted to say the “Avatar” star should complain until she’s blue in the face.)

Having previously lost a baby to a miscarriage, Rosemary — relocated to Paris with her husband — is understandably desperate to have this latest try go right. Yet the couple are almost comically willing to allow their helpful new friends (a well-cast Jason Isaacs, in full snake-charming Hogwarts mode, and Carole Bouquet) to insinuate themselves into every part of their lives, from gifting them a weird cat to supplying a strange pendant to providing the green slop Rosemary is urged to drink throughout her pregnancy.

In some respects, “Rosemary’s Baby” is all about foreplay, an extended buildup to two moments — conception and birth — with a lot of filler in between. (Notably, Polanski’s film ran 136 minutes, so minus commercials, the net length here is expanded by little more than a half-hour.)

Even the two signature scenes, however, prove somewhat anticlimactic, while Saldana is forced to endure an emotional roller-coaster, with those around her insisting she should shrug off the visions and vivid nightmares she keeps experiencing. Rosemary does receive some encouragement from a detective (Olivier Rabourdin) who provides periodic reassurance that her concerns might not be delusional.

Somehow, though, it was easier to suspend disbelief in the psychedelic ’60s, comforted by a lack of technology that could identify a mole on a fetus (in 3D) while still in the womb.

More pragmatically, broadcast networks once relied heavily on such longform events, particularly during sweeps months, and NBC is wise to try making the genre — after the success scored by “The Sound of Music” — part of its arsenal.

Viewed that way, “Rosemary’s Baby” should be pretty good at making some noise. But given the modest nature of the payoff, enduring this latest progeny does represent its own kind of labor.

TV Review: 'Rosemary's Baby'

(Miniseries; NBC, Sun./Thur. May 11/15, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Paris by City Entertainment, KippSter Entertainment and Lionsgate Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Joshua D. Maurer, Alixandre Witlin, David A. Stern; producers, Robert Bernacchi, Zoe Saldana, Cisely Saldana, Mariel Saldana; director, Agnieszka Holland; writers, Scott Abbott, James Wong; based on the novels “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Son of Rosemary” by Ira Levin; camera, Michel Amathieu; production designer, Anne Seibel; editors, Amy E. Duddleston, Brian Berdan; casting, Margery Simkin, Juliette Menager, Victor Jenkins, Kelly Hendry. 4 HOURS

Cast

Zoe Saldana, Patrick J. Adams, Carole Bouquet, Christine Cole, Jason Isaacs, Olivier Rabourdin

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  1. John says:

    I cannot believe this Polanski masterpiece with the stellar acting performances of Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes and Ruth Gordon has been remade — for a TV movie. The track record of highly critically acclaimed and audience revered films being remade for cinema is unquestionable Fail (critically and at the box office; The Omen and Carrie remakes are prime examples). For TV movies it’s overwhelmingly Epic FAIL. There is mention here of the recent “The Sound of Music Live!” remake. Before singing its praises, check RottenTomatoes. It enjoys a whopping 40% **Rotten** rating from critics (even lower from the top critics) and a 38% **Rotten** rating from the viewing audience ratings. The network may have gotten some ratings out of it, but for one night — hyping on exploitative “name recognition” in what turns out to be an abomination of a remake for a one-night stand (The Sound of Music Dead On Arrival!). I suspect it may be what they’re betting on here with yet another “name recognition” exploitation and advertising hype to drive ratings for one, perhaps two nights. From seeing the numerous trailers I predict the typical Epic Fail, not necessarily in the ratings garnered, but in the post-broadcast reviews. The changes I’ve seen in them compared to the original novel and Polanski’s film, the most obvious of which is a Paris venue, with younger, more glamorous Casavets’, do positively nothing to improve or advance the story (the changed Casavets’ IMHO are a detraction). I’m certain it’s gratuitous to avoid accusations of wholesale plagiarism of Polanski’s work. Polanski set it in a specific NYC locale, and with the apartments, it aided greatly in amplifying the creepy and ominous atmosphere surrounding Rosemary. In addition to the phenomenal acting from the principals, another major reason for Polanski’s masterpiece is his thorough understanding about how to use editing for pacing, cinematography and soundtrack to drive the unrelenting, unswerving and inescapable march through a growing ominous dread to an ultimate horror.

    Are the broadcast (and cable) TV networks that devoid of any creative originality that they feel compelled to exploit name (title) recognition of classic masterpieces and plagiarize them with utterly lackluster production, direction, cinematography and acting to produce plodding, lethargic and boring remakes? Can they not come up with anything original? Is their collective IQ that low? Are they that arrogant, disdainful and disrespectful of their viewers to think **our** IQ that low? To put a revered film’s title on a drivel remake and expect us to rave over it? I am not so gullible.

  2. melanie says:

    this should be a disaster the movie was great end of

  3. I recently watched the original again and it was a Polanski masterpiece. This one sounds a little iffy. I had high hopes that they would at least attempt something similar.

  4. I think you’re ALL correct…..we’ll see, come Sunday night.

  5. tONY says:

    Who really wants to this Devil baby movie anyway?
    We all are really tired of promoting satanic images and treating good actors and audiences to a bunch of garbage.
    Why remake this?

  6. Ken says:

    Just like the utterly forgettable 2006 re-make of THE OMEN was a pale carbon copy of the mechanical-but-effective 1976 original, this new version of ROSEMARY’S BABY (which looks and sounds lame) will in no way make me (and millions of others I’m assuming) forget the indelible 1968 original. Polanski’s film remains a masterwork…and the brilliant performances by Farrow, Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer are positively singed in one’s memory. What’s next? A network re-make of THE EXORCIST? They really should leave the classics alone.

  7. Jason says:

    Lowry, you write the smartest, wittiest, funniest reviews around.

  8. sammyglick says:

    Too bad Charles Grodin couldn’t have made a cameo in the remake! His brief appearance in the original is easily the third best scene in the movie.

  9. Blonde, blue-eyed Jesus says:

    Of course they replaced the old neighbor couple with a young, sexy couple, and the naive, waifish lead with a tough, take-charge alpha female. Why not?

  10. reek says:

    Paris? The Dakota was part of what made the original spooky.

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