tue 23/07/2019

Rosemary's Baby, Lifetime | reviews, news & interviews

Rosemary's Baby, Lifetime

Rosemary's Baby, Lifetime

Classic Sixties horror story about spawning the Antichrist fails to deliver

Little sexual chemistry: Patrick J Adams as Guy, Zoe Saldana as the guileless Rosemary

Polish director Agnieszka Holland is best known for two Holocaust films, both based on remarkable true stories: the 1990 Europa Europa and the 2011 release In Darkness. Here she tackles horror of the supernatural kind. This NBC two-parter is an updating of Ira Levin’s best-selling 1967 novel rather than a remake of Roman Polanski’s 1968 classic film, though it wouldn't matter either way, for while Polanski remained faithful to the book, this version of Rosemary’s Baby revises significant details. And in doing so, it cuts off the rich vein of elegantly spun dark humour that runs through the story.

Rather than Manhattan’s wealthy West Central Park, the scene is set in present-day Paris, where Rosemary and Guy have relocated for Guy’s teaching job as an English professor at the Sorbonne – he is no longer a struggling actor but a struggling writer. Meanwhile, their over-solicitous neighbours, the devil-worshipping Castevets, are not an odd-ball elderly couple, but are younger, far more handsome and impossibly sophisticated. Roman and Minnie (the incomparable Ruth Gordon in the film) are now Roman and Margaux, a far sexier Carole Bouquet, with Jason Isaacs her devilishly good-looking English husband. And since Rosemary, played by Zoe Saldana (Neytiri in Avatar), is not quite the ingénue child-woman bought to us by a wide-eyed Mia Farrow, but older and seemingly a little more savvy – so that her on-off guilelessness resembles stupidity rather than winsome innocence – the terrible “grooming” nature of that relationship is compromised. 

This is a watchable thriller, but it ultimately fails to thrill or to have you in much suspense

Nor can we quite go along with her when it comes to her relationship with her husband (Patrick J Adams). There is simply very little chemistry between the two actors, despite all their kissing and fondling. Both actors look as if they’re going through the paces. This is disappointing, since sex infuses this story (Holland tries and fails to ramp it up with Margaux’s sexual overtures towards Rosemary). If you’re going to make a Faustian pact with the Devil a little element of danger and hunger wouldn’t go amiss. Instead, Guy’s hard-headed aspirations are somewhat denuded – he doesn’t, after all, do a “deal” on the expensive apartment to get it at a cut-down rate; instead the Castevets insist that Rosemary accepts the flat at a dirt-cheap rate almost against her wishes.

Since the devil is in the detail, I’m not sure how this improves the telling, or the reading, of the story, since we also don’t see any point at which there is a switch in Guy’s character – though we do get a lot of conspiratorial whispers in dark corners between him and the dashing Roman, though we rarely get to hear what they're saying.  

This is a watchable thriller, but it ultimately fails to thrill or to have you in much suspense. More than an overfamiliarity with plot, I'd suggest this is more to do with wooden characterisation. And it goes at a devilishly slow pace – two overlong episodes seems like it might be stretching it.

Fisun Guner on Twitter

If you’re going to make a Faustian pact with the Devil a little element of danger and hunger wouldn’t go amiss

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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