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Rosemary's Baby (2014)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/19/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/7/2014
While the reboot/remake/reimagining juggernaut has slowed down somewhat over the past few years, it has not stopped completely and we are still getting older properties which are being repurposed for a "new, younger audience" (ie: Those who are naive and haven't educated themselves on the classics.). Since the late 80s, we've seen plenty of television shows which have been turned into feature films, but rarely does it go the other way. The two-part TV mini-series Rosemary's Baby is a new take on Ira Levin's novel and, of course, Roman Polanski's 1968 classic film. How does this new version compare?
Rosemary Woodhouse (Zoe Saldana) and her husband Guy (Patrick J. Adams) are an American couple who have just moved to Paris so that Guy can study at the Sorbonne. Fortunately, Rosemary has a friend who lives in the city, Julie (Christina Cole). While on her way to visit Julie, Rosemary is hit by a purse-snatcher. She is able to retrieve her bag and also discovers the wallet of Margaux Castevet (Carole Bouquet). Rosemary visits the exclusive apartment building in which Margaux lives to return the wallet and she finds the woman to be extremely grateful and friendly, inviting Rosemary and Guy to dinner. The couple are glad to get out of their dingy apartment and they are welcomed with open arms to the party by Roman Castevet (Jason Isaacs), Margaux's husband. The Woodhouse's are told that there is a vacant apartment in the building and as the Castevet's own the property, they will let them have it at a good price. Soon, Rosemary finds herself living in a very spacious apartment, while Guy not only gets a promotion at work, but he's able to finish his long-gestating novel. Margaux visits Rosemary constantly, and when Rosemary becomes pregnant, Margaux insists on overseeing everything. However, Rosemary soon begins to experience a great deal of pain which her doctor can explain. She also begins to question Guy's behavior. She soon begins to research the history of the building and realizes that she and her baby may be in danger.
OK, here's the question: Why mess with perfection? Due to the fact that I'm a snob (let's leave it at that), I usually have no patience for movies made prior to 1970. Polanski's Rosemary's Baby is the exception and I can remember being quite impressed with the film the first time I saw it. I then read Levin's novel and this made me appreciate the film even more. Instead of making unnecessary and unwarranted changes, Polanski did what so many others in the past should have done -- He basically shot the film word-for-word and scene-for-scene from the book. And why not? The book is a masterpiece of stripped-down paranoia which strikes at the heart of the vulnerability which women feel while pregnant and Polanski's film captures all of it in 136-minutes, creating a suspenseful, nerve-wrenching movie which has stood the test of time.
Apparently the makers of the new Rosemary's Baby knew that they couldn't touch the original, so they changed nearly everything...and most of it doesn't work. One of the most obvious changes is that the setting is now Paris as opposed to New York. This actually isn't a bad idea, as making Rosemary a "stranger in a strange land" should add to her feelings of disconnection, but this part of the story is under-utilized. In the original story, Guy is an actor, so he was already somewhat vain and his changes in behavior played into that. Here, Guy is a frustrated writer, so he's happy when he finds success, but it doesn't seem to drive him. Making Margaux (as opposed to Minnie in the original) and Roman younger was also a mistake. The beauty of Levin's story is that Rosemary suddenly finds herself taken in by this doting old couple who should be harmless, right? Even if you don't know the story, you know from the get-go here that Roman is a bad guy. The biggest change/mistake comes at the end, where the movie shows that subtlety simply doesn't sell anymore.
Those changes aside, the movie is also fairly boring. Mini-series are usually a good thing, as they are able to expand on a novel in a way that a feature-film can't, but Levin's novel runs under 300 pages and really didn't need expanding. So, we get a very slow-moving film where the audience is forced to wait for things to start happening. Once they do, they aren't very compelling and Director Agnieszka Holland is unable to muster any suspense or tension from the story. We should be on the edge of our seats, screaming at Rosemary to run for her life, but we simply don't care. As it is, we just want to know more about Rosemary's cat, which seems to be able to open doors.
The goal of introducing a younger audience to Rosemary's Baby is an admirable one, as the story is a modern-day classic, but this is not the way to do it. Please check out the original novel or movie instead. This mini-series isn't quite a mess, but it's so banal that one has to assume that they cast is only there for a free trip to France.
Rosemary's Baby shows us that cooking classes in Paris are very intense on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The mini-series has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, and while I can't say that the image was overly dark, it certainly wasn't bright and this lead to an overall flat look for the picture. However, the level of detail is good and the image was rarely soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is one of those tracks which only comes to life during key scenes. So, we get a great deal of audio from the center and front channels, but during action or "shock" sequences, the surround sound speakers and the subwoofer join in, delivering detailed effects which add to those scenes.
The Rosemary's Baby Blu-ray Disc contains two special features. "Fear is Born: The Making of Rosemary's Baby" (12 minutes) features interviews with Saldana, Adams, Bouquet, Isaacs, and Director Agnieszka Holland who discuss the goals, themes, and ideas of the film. They do mention the connection to Polanski's original and how their modern take was meant to differ. There are a number of clips here, but no on-set footage. Production Designer Anne Seibel joins the other speakers in "Grand Guignol: Parisian Production Design" (7 minutes) to discuss the sets and look of the film. We see concept art and get a look at the apartment set.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long