Try as I might, I can't feel like NBC's miniseries version of "Rosemary's Baby" is a disgrace.
I know that I should.
Roman Polanski's 1968 adaptation of Ira Levin's tightly-written suspense potboiler is a masterpiece on every level. It's disturbing and scary, which is why people remember it as a horror classic. But in certain places, it's also absolutely hilarious with a vein of dark humor that qualifies confidently as camp, but never jeopardizes the visceral tension. And that balance is perfectly captured through every performance, from Mia Farrow in the lead role, to John Cassavetes, Sidney Blackmer and the incomparable Ruth Gordon.
And every way in which Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" works, Agnieszka Holland's NBC adaptation falls short.
A review that says "NBC's 'Rosemary's Baby' is bad because Roman Polanski's 'Rosemary's Baby' is good" accomplishes nothing, even if it's both true and a tremendously efficient piece of criticism.
Despite all of the failings of the new "Rosemary's Baby," it's possible that I just have stricter standards for what constitutes a disgrace.
A disgrace is something that lingers around you forever.
It'll be a long time before Jonathan Rhys Meyers can do anything without me mentioning his trust-busting bloodsucker. Because NBC's "Dracula" was a disgrace.
Disgraces don't necessarily hold you back, because you can own a disgrace. George Clooney owns "Batman & Robin." Ben Affleck owns a solid decade of his resume. The punchlines haven't vanished, but it's all OK.
And when it comes to NBC's "Rosemary's Baby," I don't think anybody has been permanently tarnished.
Zoe Saldana is neither good nor bad in "Rosemary's Baby," but five years from now nobody will even remember it was a thing that she did.
Agnieszka Holland's resume is a mixture of very good TV -- "Treme," "The Wire" -- and an mixed bag of features, but "Rosemary's Baby" will just go down as something that she tried, even if it didn't work.
Patrick J. Adams, Carole Bouquet and Jason Isaacs? They all acquit themselves decently in "Rosemary's Baby" and I associate them all so strongly with other things -- even if, in Adams' case, it's just a really random SAG Award nomination -- that I can accept that they wanted to work in Paris for a few months, which isn't a crime.
I'm not holding "Rosemary's Baby" against anybody, even if it took up three hours of viewing time and yielded little more than a pleasant reminder that Paris is a lovely city.
No, it doesn't add to the legacy of the story, but Ira Levin did much more damage to that legacy with 1997's profoundly silly "Son of Rosemary" than anything writers James Wong and Scott Abbott could think to do here.
In fact, that's where NBC's "Rosemary's Baby" falls flat: It doesn't really think to do much of anything to Levin's book and Polanski's film. It's a missed opportunity on every intellectual level, while not approaching the technical proficiency of the first movie. So it's just nothing. The writing, direction and performances aren't laughable in any way, they're just bland and directionless.
I think curiosity might get some viewers tuning in for the first part of "Rosemary's Baby" on Sunday (May 11) night, but it just so happens that the very worst part of the entire miniseries is its structuring and so little happens in those first two hours, the only reason to tune back in for the conclusion on Thursday is to validate those first two hours. As a critic, I often watch the second half of things that aren't good just so that I can have closure on the experience. Viewers don't work the same way.
More specifics after the break...