‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is OK ’til it all goes to the devil

05/08/2014 2:29 PM

05/08/2014 2:31 PM

NBC’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” airing in two-hour parts Sunday and Thursday, is OK for a while and then isn’t.

Its stars are also OK for a while, until they can’t keep their heads above the rising bilge water of the script. The direction by Agnieszka Holland is heavy on the use of crystallizing, multi-image lenses, as if the action is being viewed by Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly.”

Still, Ira Levin’s story trumps almost everything here, except the memory of Roman Polanski’s film.

“Rosemary’s Baby” is the story of a young couple named Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Zoe Saldana and Patrick J. Adams) who, in the case of the NBC version, move into an old but elegant apartment building in Paris, where they are all but adopted by a solicitous older couple, Roman and Margaux Castevet (Jason Isaacs and Carole Bosquet).

Once NBC decided to blow the Comcast travel budget and film in Paris, writers Scott Abbott and James Wong had to change Mme. Castevet’s name: “Minnie” wasn’t an arrondissement-ready moniker.

Guy has a low-level teaching job at the Sorbonne, but wants to be a novelist. He and Rosemary welcome their year in Paris as a way of trying to get beyond the miscarriage she suffered.

The Castevets seem willing to do anything for the younger couple, which makes the Woodhouses wary, but eventually they surrender to being doted on. For no apparent reason, though, Rosemary begins to suspect something is untoward in the building, and something menacing about the Castevets.

Levin’s novel is a chilling psychological thriller, of course, but it is also about Mephistophelian bargains – how much is Guy willing to trade for what he wants? His soul? Maybe, but maybe something else as well. The key to the psychological horror isn’t devil-worship, it’s misplaced trust. Sometimes those who seem to have your best interests at heart are just as apt to rip your own heart from your body for a midday snack.

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 convincing in conveying Rosemary’s growing paranoia, even if the character is given scant reason by the script to be wary. Adams is more seriously undermined by the script.

Adams’ boyish appeal could have been put to better use to confuse Rosemary – and us – about which side he’s really on.

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