Tag Archives: Mia Farrow

NBC delivers a glossy remake of classic Rosemary’s Baby

'Rosemary's Baby'

Patrick J. Adams and Zoe Saldana star as Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse in NBC’s two-part remake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ premiering tonight.

Nearly 50 years after its 1968 release, Roman Polanski’s big-screen adaptation of Ira Levin’s 1967 bestselling horror novel Rosemary’s Baby still stands as a brilliantly constructed milestone in film horror. The director scored an Academy Award nomination for his taut screenplay, which leavened the suspense with Polanski’s typically mordant wit, and supporting actress Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her unforgettable performance as Minnie Castevet, the sweet little old neighbor who was harboring a big secret.
In contrast, NBC’s two-part remake, which begins tonight and concludes this coming Thursday, feels more like the work of international corporate deal-makers, not artists, with a cast and production that seems to be designed primarily to appeal to as wide a global audience as possible. In fact, arguably the most audacious thing NBC has done with its Rosemary’s Baby is programming it to start on Mother’s Day.
That’s not to say that it’s a train wreck, though. Although this new version incorporates most of the broad tropes of Levin’s book, it transplants the main action from New York to Paris, where American couple Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Zoe Saldana of Avatar and Patrick J. Adams of Suits) are currently living, following her recent miscarriage. Guy’s an aspiring novelist who is teaching at the Sorbonne for a puny salary while struggling with massive writer’s block. Their lifestyle is changed dramatically one day when Rosemary comes to the rescue of chic Parisienne Margaux Castevet (Carole Bouquet, For Your Eyes Only) during a “chance” encounter.
Warm and effusively maternal, Margaux and her handsome husband, Roman (British actor Jason Isaacs from the Harry Potter films), almost immediately adopt the Woodhouses as their latest project, insisting that the couple move into a newly vacant apartment in their impossibly grand building. What Guy and Rosemary don’t know is that their flat is vacant because the previous tenant, a young pregnant woman, leapt to her death from its balcony.
At a party hosted by Roman and Margaux, Rosemary witnesses, or hallucinates, a handsome stranger having sex with some of the other guests. The man begins to turn up elsewhere in Rosemary’s life, chiefly in her dreams, which carry a new erotic charge.
You know what’s coming, at least in broad strokes. Rosemary becomes pregnant following a hallucinatory dream/nightmare in which the mystery man appears to take Guy’s place in her bed. Not long after that, Guy’s fortunes mysteriously begin to improve. As Rosemary feels a mounting sense that something is terribly wrong, she begins to fret that Guy has made some sort of Faustian bargain with occultists who want to use her baby in their obscene rites.
Close, but no cigar, Rosemary.
The four main performances (you won’t recognize most of the rest of the cast) are all quite good. Saldana, often cast in films as an action babe, gives Rosemary a strength and a quiet resolve that’s a marked contrast to Mia Farrow’s most aggressively neurotic performance in Polanski’s original, and Adams’ Guy very clearly loves his wife, which was somewhat in doubt while watching the more feral John Cassavetes on the big screen.
Making the Castevets younger and sexier also makes dramatic sense. After all, if you’re going to be two of Satan’s most powerful earthly minions, you’re going to want to look the part.
Under the direction of Agnieska Holland (Europa, Europa), the TV movie looks very expensive and captures the feel of a very old and jaded city in which Rosemary and Guy are natural-born outsiders. Unfortunately, the pacing is seriously off, mainly because of the very uneven screenplay by Scott Abbott and James Wong. While some scenes still carry a jolt, others seem to drag on forever, undercutting the tension. Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby clocked in at a fairly efficient two hours and 15 minutes. The NBC remake, if you subtract commercial breaks, comes in at about three hours. I watched the two parts back to back, and still my attention began to wander in several spots. I can’t imagine how much worse it will be for most viewers, who have a four-day intermission inserted due to NBC’s scheduling.
Ultimately, the scariest thing about this new Rosemary’s Baby is that it’s just not all that scary.
Carole Bouquet and Jason Isaacs.

Carole Bouquet and Jason Isaacs star in NBC’s remake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’

Philip Roth: Who is that masked man?

During its long run on PBS, American Masters has been the home of engrossing and noteworthy profiles of some of this country’s greatest artists, so when the series schedules a documentary called Philip Roth: Unmasked, anyone who cares about contemporary American literature is bound to feel a tingle.
After all, Roth may insist that he never sets out to deliberately provoke readers and critics, yet he has emerged as one of the most consistently provocative – and reclusive – American novelists of his generation.
Unfortunately, while this 90-minute documentary, which premieres Friday on most PBS affiliates in conjunction with Roth’s recent 80th birthday, is interesting in terms of providing insights into Roth’s prolific output, it falls well short of coaxing the writer into giving up much, if any, personal information.
Given that we’re talking about the author of many startlingly frank novels such as Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) and the much-later Sabbath’s Theater (1995), wherein sex and the putative appeal of infidelity are recurring themes, it seems disingenuous of the filmmakers to slap a fairly sensational title like this one on a profile that doesn’t even mention Roth’s stormy marriage to actress Claire Bloom, who published a fairly toxic 1996 memoir called Leaving a Doll’s House about their relationship.
The American Masters press materials describe Philip Roth: Unmasked as “the first film biography” of the novelist, but even that is a bit of a stretch, given that the relatively skimpy chronicle of the writer’s personal life is presented almost exclusively through the prism of his writing. It would be far more accurate to describe this film as an appreciation, and if you approach it on those terms, you’ll find ample rewards. In fact, after watching this documentary, I’d be tempted to add Roth to the guest list of that fantasy dinner party we all compile in our heads from time to time. He’s absolutely charming, even while he is firmly deflecting any serious attempt to get a peek at the man behind the mask.
“Shame isn’t for writers,” he says of some of his more controversial work. “You have to be shameless. … I feel plenty of shame in my own life, don’t get me wrong. I’m just as shame-ridden as the next person is. But when I sit down to write, I’m free from shame.” (“And I’m also not about to share with you anything about my personal shame,” you are free to read between the lines).
If the mask slips at all, it’s during the last third of the program, when Roth addresses the stark realities of old age. As actress Mia Farrow, a longtime close friend featured in the film, admits, some of Roth’s recent novels on that theme have been almost terrifyingly bleak, and Roth, who suffers from chronic back pain, admits that now and then he has contemplated suicide. He also ruefully remarks that looking through his personal address book is “like walking through a cemetery.
“Writing turns out to be a dangerous job, when you think of the number of writers who have committed suicide,” he says. “There’s probably something inherently dangerous in the job or something in the temperament of those who choose the job. The list is long, so the question is: Why? What is there that is inherent to the job that leads so many first-class writers to commit suicide? I don’t know. But I don’t want to join the list.”