A short review of the DVD for ROSEMARY’S BABY, the 2014 made-for-TV miniseries remake of the 1968 classic.
If you’ve never seen the original, I highly recommend it. Based on the 1967 novel by Ira Levin, ROSEMARY’S BABY tells the tale of a struggling young couple that move into a hoity-toity Manhattan apartment building. Mia Farrow plays Rosemary Woodhouse, while John Cassavetes plays her husband, Guy. Roman Polanski directed an Oscar-nominated screenplay (which he wrote), and Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Gordon’s performance alone is worth the watch, and add to that Farrow’s turn as Rosemary and the general creepy-icky plot that is still regarded as a horror classic.
The young Rosemary and Guy move into the apartment and meet older neighbors Roman and Minnie Castevet. Guy starts spending mucho time with the Castavets, and it soon becomes apparent that something nasty is in the wings. Rosemary spends more and more time alone, finding secrets in her apartment like photos of dead people and hidden doors that lead to spooky corridors. She also gets knocked up, and it doesn’t take a film genius to know that the titular baby is more than just a typical bundle of joy.
Do I love the original? Hell yes (no pun intended).
Do I like the remake? Nope.
The biggest problem comes in translation from 1967, the year the book was published, to 2014. Forty-seven years makes a lot of difference in our culture. Namely, a woman letting her man take the lead in most things doesn’t seem that unbelievable in 1967. While households varied, watching a movie about one where the hubs makes most of the big decisions — and the woman goes along with his loving reassurances about those decisions — feels believable. Seeing the same behavior in 2014 does not, especially when the role of Rosemary is played by Saldana as a smart, confident, outgoing woman.
At some point in this mini-series, you can’t help but call up the old Eddie Murphy line about haunted house movies and why people stay too long: “It’s very simple — there’s a ghost in the house, get the fuck out.” As Rosemary starts to investigate the amazing apartment building in which she lives, she racks up some rather disturbing info. She wants to leave, but stays because the hubs reassures her that everything is okay. As Rosemary’s discoveries mount up, the fact that she remains with this douchebag quickly strains any ability to suspend disbelief. I just can’t by that a strong woman like Saldana’s Rosemary would stay. Mia Farrow’s wilting flower Rosemary in 1968? Yes, I buy that. Saldana’s in 2014? Nope, don’t buy it one bit.
I thought Saldana’s performance was solid. She was working her ass off to deliver a complex and conflicted Rosemary, to portray a victim of a very different kind of domestic violence. I’m not as familiar with Adams’ work, but he never seemed to settle into the role of Guy Woodhouse. The director and script didn’t sell me that he was struggling with his life and career so badly that he’d go to drastic measures to attain success. I didn’t buy his adoration for Rosemary, and if you don’t buy that, his course of action doesn’t have much emotional kick.
The really troublesome part of this flick is that it’s just not frightening. At all. Devil-worship movies with killer cultists are supposed to be, you know, scary. All the bits are there to make it scary, but for me, I got no thrills (I’m jaded, so keep that in mind, some of the icky scenes might make you jump a bit).
The supporting performances of the Castavets were solid. Jason Issacs (the bad guy from THE PATRIOT, Lucius Malfoy from the HARRY POTTER flicks) was great as the charmingly evil Roman Castavet. Carole Bouquet had the tough duty of filling Gordon’s shoes as Roman’s wife. I think the directors gave a tip of the hat to Gordon, as they changed the role from “Minnie Castavet” to “Margaux Castavet.” Bouquet had a sexy-yet-matronly evil to her that held my attention when the rest of the movie made it hard to keep going.
MY TAKE: The basic structure of a plot that’s driven by the decisions (or lack thereof) of a wilting flower wife just doesn’t play as well in a modern setting. Not worth the watch unless you’re a big Saldana fan. Watch the original again instead (or watch it for the first time) and dig on that horror history.