Wednesday, April 21, 2010

197. Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Mia Farrow
John Cassavetes
Ruth Gordon
Sidney Blackmer

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 9

"Witches... all of them witches!"

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) have just moved into a large apartment in New York City's Bramford building. Rosemary is a very sweet and caring younger housewive, while Guy is a struggling actor mostly working on stage and in commercials. Shortly after moving in, Guy and Rosemary meet their neighbors Roman and Minnie Castevet (Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon) who instantly become quite enamored with the couple. They are rather overbearing, but seem to be harmless. While Rosemary attempts to maintain some privacy, Guy becomes very friendly and fond of the couple. Soon Guy lands a lead role in a big stage play when it's actor unexpectedly becomes blind. After landing the role, Guy immediately says that he wants to have a baby with Rosemary and she agrees.

On the night that they are planning on conceiving, Minnie drops off two chocolate mouse desserts for the couple. Rosemary stops eating after a few bites and complains about the chalky under taste. A little while later, she becomes very weak and goes to bed. While asleep she dreams that a demonic force rapes her. The next morning she tells Guy of her dream, and he dismisses it and says that it was him who was making love with her. Sure enough, a few weeks later, Rosemary finds out that she is pregnant. Minnie and Roman learn the news from Guy almost immediately, and almost demand that she see a close friend Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Belemy), instead of the doctor her friend has recommended. Once visiting Dr. Sapirstein, Rosemary is instructed to take a herbal drink from Minnie's garden in place of regular prenatal vitamins.

Soon Rosemary's appearance becomes frail and she is tortured by horrible stomach pains. Her friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) is very bothered by her appearance after a meeting one afternoon. He calls her that evening to arrange a meeting for the night day. He says that he has some important information for her. The next afternoon when Rosemary attempts to meet up with Hutch, she finds that he has slipped into a coma. Rosemary is already growing suspicious when a package arrives that Hutch instructed his friend to send to her. The package contains a book about witchcraft that Hutch has marked and inscribed to Rosemary, "the name is an anagram." Soon Rosemary starts uncovering clues to the mystery of her noisy neighbors, and the very baby that she is carrying.

Rosemary's Baby is what I often refer to as a "domino movie." It takes a while to set up, but once all of the pieces are in place, it all comes crashing down. Each shot of the film is essential to setting up our characters and the story. Through this we gain an actual sense of care and concern for our characters, especially Rosemary. Even after watching it multiple times, you can appreciate how well the film is structured. Nothing compares to your first viewing of the film though. The last fifteen minutes is filled with enough tension and surprise to rival any of cinema's great "shock endings." It's a film that deals with the supernatural, but it's realistic approach is really what sets it apart from most thrillers of it's kind.

This film is blessed to have two strong female characters portrayed by two phenomenal actresses in Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon. Farrow gives the defining performance of her career as the soon-t0-be mother Rosemary. In lesser hands, the role could have become rather campy and ultimately ruined the entire film. However, Farrow's perfectly paced lines and genuine terrified looks prove that she was made for the part. Ruth Gordon is also excellent as the neighbor from hell, Minnie Castevet. Gordon received many accolades for her performance including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She is consistently annoying, yet surprisingly manipulating. The way her character twists and molds the people around her is subtle, but amazing when looking at the results. The male performances in Rosemary's Baby are merely footnotes compared to Farrow and Gordon.

It's safe to say that I am a big fan of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. I really do enjoy films that actually set out to tell a complete story, and not just focus on one main aspect. With this film, you get a complete look at a couple wanting to have a baby, a struggling actors desperate measures, the trials of noisy neighbors, and the power of manipulation. Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon highlight an amazing cast superbly directed by Polanski. If you are watching the film for your first time, I encourage you to stick with it for it's entirety. The run time might be long, but the payoff in the end makes the journey completely worth while. I strongly recommend seeing this shocking and well structured film.

No comments:

Post a Comment