Rosemary’s Baby is a classic movie and a classic novel, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t reinterpret and retell the story. It’s really a psychological story that a smart writer and director can move around and work with. So, even if I was skeptical, I tried to keep an open mind as I watched this, only to discover it committed the worst possible storytelling sin.
Namely, Rosemary’s Baby is dull. Deadly, deadly dull.
It’d be one thing if it were a ridiculous campfest, but the actors involved, ranging from Zoe Saldana to Patrick J. Adams to Jason Isaacs, don’t “do” campy, really. Similarly, Agnieszka Holland, probably best known for directing episodes of The Wire and Treme, isn’t a campy director. In fact, this appears to be her first stab at horror. It’s a bunch of very professional people doing a very professional job, and the result is a sedative of a miniseries.
One of the problems is this is a “four-hour movie event.” The novel just 250 pages or so, and almost all of it is plot momentum. So, pad that out to four hours and you essentially have a young couple in France whining about their First World problems and their overly clingy “elderly” neighbors for far too long. This first “episode” can’t even be bothered to have Rosemary get knocked up in it, it’s that slow.
Another problem is that the script chokes on a pretty important aspect. Part of the reason the book is so effective is that Levin was a fussy, careful writer, as this hilariously bitchy obituary for the man discusses, and was obsessed with creating a sense of both place and time. Levin bought every newspaper and magazine that was published during the span of time the novel takes place, and refers to specific events and even magazine covers. There’s none of that here, no subtle sense that the world is going to hell as Rosemary worries over it.
If there’s anyone to feel bad for, it’s Zoe Saldana. She took the job for a free vacation, but she actually puts in some effort. She’s not gunning for an Emmy but it’s pretty clear she at least didn’t want to embarrass herself, either. Credit to Patrick J. Adams, though, he’s pretty convincing as a writer upset that his career isn’t going as planned. Considering the script sticks him as a writing professor at a prestigious French university, you have to work pretty hard to come off as that disappointed.
This isn’t the worst attempt to follow up on Rosemary’s Baby. Hell, it’s not even the worst attempt to cash in on the book that’s been aired on TV. But it’s so flavorless it’s vaguely ridiculous. The followup airs Thursday, and hopefully it’ll actually have some plot in it.