‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Part 1 Recap: “The Devil Has Many Faces”

The parade of new TV programs based on old movies continues this week with NBC’s miniseries remake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. As a new parent with two infants at home, perhaps this wasn’t the best timing for me to watch the story of an evil devil baby.

Unlike some other so-called “limited series” that initially promise a single contained season, but fully intend to draw the story out further if the ratings are decent (‘Under the Dome’, for example), the new ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is decidedly a miniseries. Part 1 aired on Sunday. It concludes on Thursday. At least so far, this is a pretty straightforward remake of the famous Roman Polanski film, just dragged out to twice the length. (I suppose the producers will argue that this is technically a re-adaptation of the original Ira Levin novel, but Zoe Saldana’s pixie haircut and a musical score that’s pretty much duplicated from the old movie are evidence enough about the project’s true inspiration.)

Although the setting has been moved from New York to Paris, the story beats here are entirely familiar. After suffering a miscarriage, young Rosemary Woodhouse (Saldana) and her husband Guy (Patrick J. Adams from ‘Suits’) pack up and change cities to follow Guy’s career. In this case, he’s a struggling novelist hired to teach English literature at the Sorbonne. Soon, they find themselves lured into the social circle of wealthy couple Roman and Margot (Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet), who arrange for them to move into their antiquated but upscale apartment building called La Chimere.

Their fortunes seem too good to be true, but strange things are afoot at La Chimere. Rosemary discovers that the former residents of the apartment – a young couple not too dissimilar from Rosemary and Guy – ended in tragedy when the pregnant wife leapt to her death from the balcony. Investigating this story leads Rosemary to a Coptic Orthodox church, where the priest informs her that the building is evil and the residents are cannibals and devil worshippers. She’s a little freaked out by this, but assumes that the priest is just crazy. Later, however, Rosemary has hallucinations about a devilish man engaging in orgies in the building. This makes her disoriented and paranoid, yet awfully horny.

While Margot and Roman are quite charming, they’re also terribly meddlesome, especially when it comes to the younger couple’s plans to try again for a child. Margot repeatedly plies Rosemary with a concoction she calls a “fertility soup,” and won’t leave her alone until she drinks every drop. Rosemary also spots Guy having secret conversations with Roman. In little time at all, Guy’s career hits a major upswing when he’s offered a big promotion at the university (the other candidate for the job has a psychotic break and kills herself) and Roman helps him find a publisher for the novel he’s been working on.

Part 1 ends with Rosemary, drugged up by whatever’s in the fertility soup, hopping into bed with Guy, but having a vision that he steps aside and lets the Devil rape her.

If you’ve seen the old movie, you know where this is going. The miniseries holds no surprises. The direction by Agnieszka Holland (‘Europa Europa’, ‘The Secret Garden’) has nice production values, but lacks Roman Polanski’s stylistic flair. Saldana brings a very modern sensibility to her performance, and makes Rosemary a much stronger, feistier character than Mia Farrow did. This falls rather severely at odds with the material, which requires her to be passive and frail at moments that feel totally false here.

I’ve invested two hours into this already. I might as well watch the ending, but I’m not overly impressed. The Polanski film is far more effective in less time.

I think I’m most disappointed by the fact that this is just a remake of the film, and not a spin-off that intends to pick up the story after the events of the movie. An ongoing series that follows Rosemary as she has to raise a baby she believes is evil has a lot of potential for fascinating drama. What we get instead, unfortunately, just feels redundant and pointless.

Should I even bother to recap the second half? I’ll decide that after I watch it.

Update: No, I’ve decided not to bother. It’s really not worth my time to write it or your time to read it.

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