Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rosemary's Baby

(1968) **** 1/2

The only thing I knew about this classic was that a woman gets raped by the devil and has its child. I was really hesitant to watch this because horror movies are supposed to be escapist (trolls and zombies and clowns, oh my!) but the issues of sexual vulnerability and violent non-consenting sex is all too close to Reality to me. I'm not trying to give a lecture or make anyone feel bad – I'm just being honest about what I see/think/feel.

"Hello? I'd like to place a call to Shut The Hell Up About My Short Hair."

Having said all of that, this movie surpassed any expectations or presuppositions I possessed about horror movies and their association with taking advantage of women. Rosemary's Baby brings up a lot of topics that are generally misunderstood by the public even to this day: pagan rituals and at-home pregnancies, among others. Although it paints a typical picture of what devil worship looks like, the characters are likable and eccentric; likewise the music and cinematography help to weave a tapestry of terror as Rosemary's due date approaches. I was happy to see that Roman Polanski had both directed and written this for the screen and now I'm kicking myself for not reading the book beforehand (he didn't write the book).

This was a great follow-up after Suspiria as the discussion of devil worship and the theme of pagan rituals provides a riveting back-story focused on an unsuspecting, fertile young woman (portrayed here by Mia Farrow). 

Rosemary Woodhouse is the stay-at-home wife of Guy Woodhouse, a New York stage and screen actor with a terribly unromantic New York accent. They're trying to have a baby but aren't too passionate going about it: one notable scene involves an evening dinner they share after moving into their new abode. Rosemary calmly conveys to Guy, “Let's make love” and they begin to strip on their respective sides of the dining area. The onscreen chemistry between Guy and Rosemary is so dry I had to keep a gallon of water by my side while viewing their interactions. If this is what New Yorkers call lovemaking I'm happy to be a California girl.

Thanks for the homage, Mr. Lee Roth.

After Rosemary discovers she is pregnant, and delivers the good news to her hubby and the viejos inhabiting their apartment building, she experiences the direct opposite of what any woman-with-child deserves: she is separated from her friends and family, forced to change doctors, and is pressured daily to drink a strange concoction containing herbs whose benefits to her and her baby are never explained. On top of all this, she watches helplessly as close friends suffer and die as they become aware of her eerie and unconventional pregnant condition.

This movie did NOT make pregnancy and childbirth look fun. (Not that it's supposed to be a trot through the park.)

Rosemary's Baby raised the bar of what can be achieved with a great story and minimal special effects. Although you never actually see the baby (I'm sorry, was that a spoiler? Uhmmm. . . oops), your skin crawls just as well hearing the fright in Rosemary's screams and pleas. Tension builds between Rosemary and other supporting characters as she finds the strength to hold her own and take care of business. Ruth Gordon plays a neighbor with literally the same characteristics as her role in Harold and Maude. 

First Satanist to win an Oscar.
Finally, the ending is beautifully constructed and despite its overtones of evil in its purest form, I felt a sense of tranquility and peace of mind.


JPX said...

Excellent review and summary, I'm glad you dug it. I haven't seen it in ages but I remember it being really creepy. Love the David Lee Roth pic!

"I was happy to see that Roman Polanski had both directed and written this for the screen"

Based on your earlier comments about watching films that include rape, etc, I'm surpirsed your not more horrified by Polanski's past. I actually find that I can't watch his movies any more, which is a shame because he's so good.

Catfreeek said...

Great review Crystal, this is one of those films that will sit with you for years. Glad you liked it.

AC said...

love the review, and as it happens the dvd is sitting on our coffee table! neither mr. ac nor i have ever seen it.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Nice. I've seen this movie so many times, it's nice to hear a thoughtful response to it from a fresh set of eyes. I love the observation about their dry chemistry. So true!

Mr. AC said...

Kick ass review, Crystal! Looking forward to watching this with AC.

DCD said...

Awesome review! I watched this a few years back and loved it. Can't wait to hear from the AC's on this!

Octopunk said...

Bangin' review, CM! I like your observation about the ending, I get that feeling too. I think that moment is a key component to many stories involving the devil.