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Part One Of Zoe Saldana's 'Rosemary's Baby' Miniseries Airs Tonight. What Are The Critics Saying About It?

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 11, 2014 4:30 PM
5 Comments
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When this project was first announced, I did wonder who the target audience for it was; I didn't think it was for those who saw and appreciated Roman Polanski's 1968 version, who are probably much older (unless they are like me, and they discovered it while at film school, or they happen to be cineaste or cinephiles who take it upon themselves to see everything, or just fans of cinema in general). 

I assumed NBC was targeting a younger audience with the miniseries, given Zoe Saldana's fanbase, which I believe skews younger. But they probably aren't familiar with Polanski's version, nor the book that it was based on (a 1967 best-selling horror novel by Ira Levin). 

But that's OK I suppose. They don't have to be familiar with either. NBC obviously felt that they had something that was worth taking a risk on, and they have. We'll find out this week, what the ratings will be release, after the first half of the miniseries debuts tonight, SundayMay 11, from 9-11 p.m. ET/PT.

The second half will air on ThursdayMay 15 - a scheduling decision by NBC that I don't quite understand. When it comes to miniseries, I'd expect back-to-back nights (Sunday and Monday), instead of a 4-day break between part one and part two. You risk the chance of losing some of your audience with that much time between the first and second halves - especially if they aren't hooked after part one.

But I'm not a TV network executive, so I can't claim to have my mind wrapped around NBC's decision making. Their reasons for the spacing could certainly be smartly valid.  

In NBC's miniseries event, Rosemary's Baby, Saldana plays Rosemary, a young wife who moves into a Paris apartment with her husband - an apartment with a darkly storied past. Soon after becoming pregnant, Rosemary becomes increasingly suspicious that both her husband and their mysterious neighbors have ulterior motives about the future of her child.

In Roman Polanski's 1968 classic film of the same name, Mia Farrow starred as the title character.

This time around, acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland (Europa, EuropaTreme) directed the NBC project from a script penned by Scott Abbott (Introducing Dorothy Dandridge) and James Wong (American Horror Story). 

We haven't seen it yet, and will likely be watching along with you all, when part one of the mini airs tonight (watch for my live-tweets). But some TV critics have had screened it, and I thought it worthwhile to share some of what they had to say, which may or may not affect your decision to tune in tonight.

Starting with The Hollywood Reporter:

NBC's remake of the classic Roman Polanski film is ill-advised and pointless.  So much of this remake loses the original’s subtlety (no doubt decades of more pointed horror movies have taken their toll) that outside of the aforementioned three worthwhile elements everything seems to be a waste of time. 

And from Variety:

It’s been nearly two generations since Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” creeped-out moviegoers (while being the stuff of several juicy chapters on celebrity gossip), making a redo more than logical. Into the breach toddles NBC’s four-hour miniseries, an old-fashioned May sweeps come-on that awkwardly puts four days between its two parts. Steeped in gore but deprived of atmosphere, this update on the Satanic classic suffers from its contemporary setting and attendant improvements in obstetrics, while feeling closer in tone to a remake of “The Omen” than of its namesake. Give the network credit for a promotable title and star in Zoe Saldana, but beyond that, well, the Devil’s in the details.

The New York Times was a bit more appreciative, stating:

And one of the best things about the NBC two-part mini-series “Rosemary’s Baby,” a surprisingly clever remake of the 1968 classic Roman Polanski movie, is that it is set amid the real gargoyles of Paris, not those that adorn the Dakota on Central Park West.

SFGate also agrees, somewhat, praising the acting, but critical of the script:

The cast is very good, perhaps showing just how competent they are as they maintain a tenuous hold on our interest long after the film has dropped the credibility ball. Saldana is quite convincing in conveying Rosemary's growing paranoia, even if the character is given scant reason to be wary by the script. Adams is also quite good, but is more seriously undermined by the script. Once we know that Guy isn't to be trusted, the actor needs to be given the word tools to work with. Because he isn't, he simply becomes impossible to believe.

The Washington Post seems to agree:

It’s a slick and sometimes even elegant TV production that’s several notches above, say, Lifetime’s recent remake of “Flowers in the Attic.” The script can be remedially hokey, but Saldana turns in a feisty and believable performance as a mother fighting for the life of her unholy spawn. Someone get her a parenting blog and she’ll fit right in.

Time magazine isn't as kind, calling it laborious:

This Rosemary is directed by Agnieszka Holland, who has shot lively and complex episodes of The Wire and Treme, but the miniseries is leaden and slack. Part of the problem maybe simply be bloat; even if NBC adds only a half-hour or so to the movie’s run time, you feel every minute here, and it may be tough to get viewers to return four days later for part two. But the greater problem is Rosemary and Guy, who are as anesthetically generic as a couple in a credit-card commercial.

And USA Today really despised it, calling it ill-advised, adding that it's enough to make you cry, and more:

If you're expecting intelligent answers from Rosemary's Baby, you're going to be disappointed. Subtlety has no place here; ambiguity and suspense have been jettisoned for random outbreaks of gore paired with comically obvious allusions to Satanism. If you're still around by the time Rosemary touches a crucifix and feels faint, you should take that as your cue to check out. There's a far better Baby out there, longing for your attention.

Ouch!

So, in essence, a mixed response. Surely it'll appeal to some, as it did with some of the critics.

I do plan to watch it myself, and will share my thoughts afterward. I do think comparisons with Polanski's film are, while we could say inevitable, are also maybe unfair. This is someone else's take on the material, almost 50 years later, and I'll judge it accordingly. 

Watch the trailer, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and several clips from the miniseries below:

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5 Comments

  • Mark & Darla | May 12, 2014 11:46 PMReply

    Looking forward to part two on Thursday. Love how the writer(s) set-up what cause Rosemary to cross pass with the devil worshippers and how the fire lead to Rosemary and Guy moving in the wicked building.

  • AC | May 12, 2014 5:10 PMReply

    I saw most of last night's episode. My one tid bit is that... during the episode I wondered, "she's black, in Paris where there is actually a significant amount of African discended people in the city and rural areas, but she's surrounded by white people - really, kind, and generous, white people....? She should be alarmed from jump!" Now, don't go having the whole "but Saldana isn't..." conversation. It's old, move on. But she's the only black (dark brown even) face on screen for the majority of the movie. It's strange. It's Paris folks! Like London, like New York, black people are everywhere. I've meet MANY Black Parisians and descendants of... so what are we to think of this? Plus there's the whole Devil worship thing that seems obvious from the beginning. There are just several point were the viewer is like, "gurl, c'mon?"

  • James M. | May 12, 2014 4:27 PMReply

    I'm sorry, but this is excrutiatingly awful writing:
    "When this project was first announced, I did wonder who the target audience for it was; I didn't think it was for those who saw and appreciated Roman Polanski's 1968 version, who are probably much older (unless they are like me, and they discovered it while at film school, or they happen to be cineaste or cinephiles who take it upon themselves to see everything, or just fans of cinema in general). "

    I'm so confused. What kind of publication is Indiewire supposed to be? I thought I was coming here to read intelligent pieces about film. If I'd wanted fluff crap that's poorly written, I could have easily gone over to HuffPo or Gawker or BuzzFeed.

  • Geneva Girl | May 12, 2014 11:10 AMReply

    I saw this as a way-too-young-to-see-it kid because my dad was too cheap to get a babysitter. It gave me nightmares. Based on those memories I don't know if I can watch the remake.

  • scripttease | May 11, 2014 7:26 PMReply

    Yes, I will be watching. I enjoy watching the original from time to time, so it'll be great to see if this one can compete.

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