If you blinked, you probably missed the black guy in the original Rosemary’s Baby: D’Urville Martin (later a Blaxploitation regular in films like Dolemite, Hell Up in Harlem, Hammer and Five on the Black Hand Side) as Diego, the hotel operator in the notorious apartment building The Bramford. The fact that he is THE black person in the movie should be all the justification one needs for the casting of a black actress as the lead in the 2014 made-for-TV miniseries remake.
Zoe Saldana, Hollywood’s current go-to actress for racially ambiguous people or aliens of color (POAOC), stars as Rosemary Woodhouse, and unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 50 years, you pretty much know the story of her paranoia that her new neighbors are plotting something nefarious for her unborn baby.
The miniseries changes several noticeable details from the original — like the location (Paris instead of New York), Rosemary and Guy’s occupations (Rosemary is a former ballerina, and Guy is a writer) and the fact that nosy neighbor couple the Castevets are now middle-aged and sexy rather than old and crusty — but the gist of the story remains the same.
One of the most noticeable changes, of course, is Rosemary’s race, but it’s never discussed in the miniseries — although an early scene in which she’s paraded around a party by the Castevets and ogled by the guests like a piece of meat plays like an eerily similar forerunner to the party scene/auction in Get Out (There’s even a similar token Asian guy.).
Of course, unlike Get Out, there’s no intended slavery connotation here, although something along those lines would’ve added some welcome depth and innovation to this otherwise sterile remake — whose half-heartedness is perhaps a reflection of the admission by Saldana (who produced the remake along with her sisters) that a large reason for taking the role was her desire to film in Paris for three months.
Given Saldana’s history of tone deafness (more than once) when it comes to racial issues and naiveté regarding social issues, which led her to cast herself — in a modern equivalent of blackface — as the lead in the Nina Simone biopic Nina, it’s not surprising that Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t strive for any sort of deep racial message — granted, not that it would’ve been especially appropriate in this particular film. Still, it’s interesting to note how her seemingly dismissive, myopic attitude towards race mirrors her perceived flippancy towards this film (She commented that “Fans of the classic will not like the new, so that’s OK. Let me just then have fun.”).
Thus, despite the best efforts of acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland, the end result feels dry and pointless, with the filmmakers thinking that adding a few scenes of gratuitous gore — like a blend of the Omen and Final Destination movies — would be enough to make this remake stand on its own. The three-hour running time allows for the expansion of some story elements — like how the Woodhouses came to live in the apartment — but since we’re already familiar with where things are headed, this development feels like unnecessary padding, delaying the inevitable.
Unlike the original, at the climax, we do get to see the baby and his eyes — about which Rosemary notoriously screams — and guess what? They’re blue. Frankly, I’d say it’s a lucky break, considering the kid’s lineage. With that skin tone and those light eyes, he could be the next Gary Dourdan…but less evil.