This Review contains some spoilers.
Before turning on Rosemary’s Baby, I had heard much praise from many different friends, many I know through theatre, are avid film buffs like me, or have just said it’s worth watching Along with those I mentioned who I know personally, I’ve heard many critics talk about how much they loved this film. One of my favorite authors, Stephen King, was among them. So with all of this in mind going into the movie, I was beyond excited. However, after finishing the movie, I was more than disappointed, I was pissed. Watching this movie made me angry, which is something that rarely happens to me with films. But this film, from beginning to end, made me mad. And since we’re in the wonderful month of October, with horror movies coming out of our ears in preparation for Halloween, I felt it was appropriate to warn you all who perhaps haven’t seen this film before you waist any portions of your valuable time.
Rosemary’s Baby is a Roman Polanski film based on the novel of the same name, starring Mia Farrow. About a young couple who move into a new apartment beside an elderly couple, who are odd but quickly become a huge part of the main protagonists’ lives. As the film progresses, Rosemary, the young wife played by Mia Farrow becomes pregnant and her husband who is an actor is given more and more acting opportunities. However, as Rosemary’s pregnancy progresses, she begins to realize more and more, that something isn’t just wrong with her baby, but with all the people around her.
Now you’d think with just that description, you’d have something very interesting, especially when you consider the aspect of the birth of the antichrist being a major part in the story. However, what we end of up getting is something stale and with very little life to it.
It was huge hit at the time of its release for its dark subject matter. I feel if this were a film that was released today, it wouldn’t be anything more but the kind of film you might see on Netflix or Shudder that you might put on in the background, without much thought or need to pay attention to it, since it’s in the background.
Everything about this movie, especially within its first act feels like a story that’s happening far away, or in the background, where you know it’s there and you look at it from time to time, but it doesn’t completely grab you. Every character in this film doesn’t feel like a character, but like a stale cardboard cutout of one. At best there are times, particularly the elderly neighbors, feel more like caricatures of people rather than real relatable people. Whether or not this latter point was something that was intended on purpose the screenwriter and the director, I can’t be completely sure, though it would make a little sense since it’s made almost painfully clear these people aren’t to be trusted. Whatever the intention, it was grating after a while to watch.
One of the worst aspects of the film, which many I’m sure will disagree with me, is Mia Farrow. I’ve always admired Mia Farrow’s body of work that came after Rosemary’s Baby, though she does often give the same kind of note of a woman, a doormat. Rosemary as a character is one of the most spineless, misogynistic characters I’ve seen in a film. She doesn’t stand up for herself in any way throughout the film, and any time she does, it feels forced, or as if it’s not something the audience should take seriously. Perhaps to create some doubt in the audience? It’s hard to say for sure. What I do know is in many different scenes where something supernatural isn’t happening or suspected to be happening; Rosemary is just there to play the good 1960s housewife, who then gives birth to the antichrist. This alone could have been a brilliant and powerful statement to make at the time had it been done with a little more intelligence. Metaphors could have been explored as well as more chances to explore Rosemary as a character herself as someone with dimension, someone who is complex, rather than just someone who is told constantly that she’s crazy and that she has to go to these doctors and drink these gross drinks she doesn’t really want. Mia Farrow, while she does do a well enough job in the part and making her believable, it still fails since the character is so horribly written. And since Mia Farrow has more screen time than most of the film’s cast, we unfortunately are forced to endure some of the most rage inducing moments in the film.
The film does pick up once she’s become pregnant though not by much. Which before I go into that, I have to address the moment that made me the most angry.
There is a scene where Rosemary walks up from what she thinks was a dream where she’s in the middle of some kind of orgy. When she wakes up, she has scratches on her back, and her husband admits he had sex with her while she was passed out so they could still try for a child. Initially she’s troubled by this, but doesn’t bring the issue back up again, despite her husband saying there was something necrophilic about the whole thing that he kind of liked. I had to turn the movie off for a few minutes after this moment. I’m not an easily offended person, or even a big player in the current politically correct culture we’re in now, but this moment, its implications, and the lack of conflict from it left me a little shaken and I honestly started to check out. I was paying attention, but it wasn’t a fun experience from that point on.
Once she becomes pregnant things get a little more interesting as she begins eating meats raw, losing weight and changing her hair to a short pixie cut (a change every man and the movie gives her snide comments over despite her looking beautiful with the cut) and a constant pain she feels in her stomach that doesn’t quite drive her to make the intelligent decision to see a different doctor rather than the one her neighbors she still barely knows at this point insists she needs to see.
When she finally (I mean how did she not see it from the word go?) realizes there might be some witch craft or devil worship going on, I will admit, I got a little more invested and wanted to see how everything turned out. I will also admit that the final scene, where Rosemary pulls back the curtain and sees her child, her child’s eyes that are just like his father’s, it’s a truly frightening moment. A frightening moment almost ruined by the rest of the witches crying out about the devil and a bunch more mumbo jumbo. This does actually lead to Rosemary’s one moment of backbone when she spits in her husband’s face after he says everything was worth it when you look at all the success he’s obtained and what they will both get as time goes on.
So we’re left with a very morbid happily ever after with Rosemary rocking her baby with a faint smile on her face, one that implies that as time goes on, she will also surrender to the crazy, if it means being with her baby.
It’s not at all the worst film I’ve ever seen, but it’s bad when I’ve told by so many how much of a classic it is, and how many films were inspired by it. One of the films definitely inspired by it is Hereditary. I can say without a shred of doubt that the latter did much better than the former. To be honest, most films and stories that are born from this original idea that is Rosemary’s Baby will more likely than not be much better. Is this film worth watching? Sure, though I can tell you it wasn’t worth the anger I felt walking out of it. So watch this, but at your own risk.