Ed note: In order to provide a more complete look at NBC's miniseries remake of Rosemary's Baby—which airs for two hours this Sunday, May 11 and then another two hours on Thursday, May 15—we've decided to review it in a more "traditional" manner, i.e. covering all four hours at once before its premiere. Think of this as part preview, part review, with some light spoilers (for a project based on a 45-year-old movie and a 46-year-old book).
There are two things you need to know right up front:
One, I haven't read Ira Levin's original Rosemary's Baby novel or seen the 1968 film adaptation, so I didn't have any direct comparisons in mind. Yet all three follow the same basic story: Young couple Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into a swanky abode that seems too good to be true and quickly becomes so. As Guy begins to succeed in his career (he's a struggling actor in the book and the film, a novelist in NBC's update), Rosemary grows more isolated and uncomfortable—especially once she discovers that she's pregnant.
And two, NBC's update of the story is the kind of production where the lead character types "SATAN WITCHES" into Google in what is intended to be a dramatic and intense moment. But, hey, at least the producers made sure to display the real Google.
And while that moment is particularly silly, it's certainly not the only silly moment in Rosemary's Baby. At times, it seems like the miniseries absolutely knows it can't compete with the slow-building dread of the classic film, and so instead, it goes for half-assed winking about the nuttiness of everything that's happening to Zoe Saldana's titular character (the mother, not the baby—though that would be fascinating), or about the nuttiness of some of the randos who make the mistake of feigning interest in Rosemary's life. But then at other times—especially in the second installment, when Rosemary's condition begins to worsen and her paranoia is confirmed—we're clearly supposed to recognize the ugliness and pain of it all. Unfortunately, since so many of the creepy or weird moments come off as poorly executed or simply cheesy, it's kind of hard to invest in the occasional element that plays it straight or actually works well enough.
What works here are a few of the performances. I have absolutely no idea why Saldana chose to do this project—maybe she wanted to hang out in Paris (where the mini was filmed), or maybe she's just a diehard Suits fan and wanted to spend some quality time with Patrick J. Adams, who plays Guy—but she's definitely game for whatever the script asks of her, and then some. Indeed, she's so into the role that it's almost like she's singlehandedly trying to elevate the material and the entire project to meet her efforts. Those attempts don't really work, and the physical transformation that the part requires is a little difficult to pull off because she's such a small woman to begin with. But still, Saldana succeeds in embodying Rosemary's simmering confusion and paranoia, and doesn't turn it up so much during the character's more hysterical moments that the scenes become unintentionally funny.
It's also a true bummer that Jason Isaacs is cashing NBC checks for something like this instead of for something like Awake, but the dude brings some of that Lucius Malfoy game to his work here: His Roman Castevet is a bit hammy, but he's also calm and constantly present despite the goofy script. His partner in crime and his on-screen wife, Carole Bouquet's Castevet, is similarly entertaining. Despite my lack of familiarity with the original Rosemary's Baby film, research tells me that the expanded runtime of the NBC miniseries gives the Castevets more time to sink their hooks into Rosemary and Guy, especially in the first hour. The early scenes are certainly some of the more boring, table-setting moments you'll see on TV during May sweeps, but Isaacs and Bouquet do provide the small amount of energy that's present within them.
Oh, and Adams has stubble in this! That's probably the best thing I can say about his performance. He's not offensive, but the character isn't really there on the page to fill the screen time the miniseries affords him. Though it's pretty clear from the start that Guy is involved in whatever the hell is going on, Rosemary's Baby doesn't fully commit to his conflicting feelings with regard to that involvement. His strife occasionally surfaces, and Adams is good in a pivotal moment at the end of Part 1, but Guy's douchery is out in full force early and often.
The disappointing thing about Rosemary's Baby is that the project appears to do absolutely nothing with its extra running time. Without commercials, these two parts run about three hours, or roughly 40 minutes longer than the film. And yet, there's very little here that's additive. The plot descriptions for the film and the miniseries are almost identical, barring the location change from New York City to Paris. And instead of using that additional time to further sketch out characters like Guy or to create a real connection between Guy and Rosemary, there's just a whole lot of random stuff going on: a weird number of scenes in a cooking class, a police investigation that unveils the history of the building, etc. The intent is to illustrate how Rosemary and Guy each succumb to the Castevets in their own ways over some extended period of time, but there are far too many aimless or dull scenes to actually produce that effect.
On an individual performer level, nobody comes out of NBC's Rosemary's Baby looking all that different than they did going in. The performances are all fine, even as the two leads are hampered by a weak script and a lack of chemistry between the two of them. Director Agnieszka Holland has managed a few nice wide location shots, and provided the occasional inspired angle or lighting choice. Nevertheless, I don't really know what NBC planned to accomplish with this miniseries. If all the network intended to do was simply remake a nearly 50-year-old movie for younger audiences with a Peter Jackson-style extended edit, fine; mission accomplished. But with this version of Rosemary's Baby, you really feel the nine months of the pregnancy. This thing is far too bloated, and far too boring, to be worth watching, especially during this busy time of the TV season.