Written by: Matt Molgaard
Just to be entirely honest, I didn’t expect much from NBC’s remake of Rosemary’s Baby. First off, while I enjoy and respect Roman Polanski’s original adaptation of Ira Levin’s phenomenal tale, I must admit that it hasn’t aged too well, and plays out as an often over-the-top production (note the insanely ridiculous final moments of Polanski’s pic) that summons more laughter than fear. Just the same, Mia Farrow was genius, the hallucination/drugged sequences are truly unusual, the rape scene is quite disturbing and John Cassavetes’s work as Guy was pitch perfect. If you didn’t hate Guy by the midway point of the film, you weren’t watching. That man was a true asshole.
The original film had its ups and downs. NBC’s remake sits in the exact same boat. In terms of story details, these two are quite similar. There are some minor differences to contend with (Guy was an actor in the original film whereas he’s an author in the remake; New York is the focal setting in the original while Paris is home for the Woodhouse’s in this new rendition) in this reimagining, but for the most part they’re easily overlooked. What isn’t so easy to overlook however, is the profoundly different demeanor of the film’s antagonists. The original film painted the nemesis’ as quite elderly busybodies who seemed far from vile while this new rendition highlights two extremely wealthy, arrogant and glamorous individuals, with obvious cruel intentions buried beneath their pleasant visages. I didn’t take kindly to that change at all. The original offered mystery because – initially – we had no idea the intention of the enemy. This new duo look sinister from moment one. It kills any mounting mystery we could have stumbled upon. The strange sexual undertones between Rosemary and Margaux also feel terribly out of place.
As you may now detect, there were some mishaps to face in this specific remake. The entire mood of the film was so different from the original that I found myself somewhat disconnected at times. That however could also be a time factor. The original pic clocked in just over two hours, this contemporary telling however hovers around the four hour mark. And a whole lot of scenes could have been left on the cutting room floor, never to be missed.
Zoe Saldana did a fine job as Rosemary, and I know that was a major concern among longtime fans. How could a black woman pull off a role originated by a white woman – an abnormally pale white woman, for that matter? Zoe impresses, and not simply because she’s absolutely gorgeous, she impresses because she’s quite often convincing and she commands sensitivity. In fact the truth is, whether I cared for the differing attitudes of familiar individuals or not, the entire cast offer up impressive performances.
Had they cut an hour from the remake, it would have been a significantly more engaging piece of work. And, had they adorned the feature’s coven with a more enigmatic presence, the climax would have likely been far more impacting. That said, I’ve seen countless remakes that make NBC’s Rosemary’s Baby look a masterful piece of work. This isn’t an astounding success, and it’s not an utter failure. It’s an interesting remake that’s well shot and worth at least a single viewing.