Title: Rosemary’s Baby
Author: Ira Levin
Publisher: Random House
Audiobook Narrator: Mia Farrow
It took me a long time to finally sit down and watch the Roman Polanski directed Rosemary’s Baby. Not because I didn’t want to see, but because I just didn’t take the time to watch it until relatively recently. This is another instance where I wish I would’ve read the novel before watching the film. Unlike most times when that’s the case, though, it’s not because I found the novel so much better than the film. In reality, I am not sure that one is markedly better than the other because, fortunately, they’re both pretty damn great. I do wish, though, that I read the book first because the one aspect that the novel does better is keeping the reader guessing on what is reality, and what is just paranoia.
The story of Rosemary’s Baby wouldn’t work nearly as well today as it did back in the late 1960s. It feels like a product of its time, and that isn’t a knock on the book at all. It relies on more traditional values, which is what keeps Rosemary at home while her husband, Guy, works. To be fair, Guy is a successful actor, and makes a very good living, so Rosemary isn’t forced to work, but that’s just one aspect of this relationship that feels traditional. Out of the blue, Guy finally agrees that they should have the child that Rosemary has been wanting. Rosemary is completely cut off from her family because of her choice to marry a man of a different religion – another example of why this story feels like a time capsule – so instead of turning to her family for advice, she turns to their new neighbors, both much older than Guy and Rosemary, for help.
Her pregnancy isn’t going well. She is in constant pain, and hates the odd drink that the neighbor keeps bringing her every morning. But, her doctor suggested it, so she goes along with it. That is, until she cannot take the pain any longer. She begs Guy to let her see a different doctor, but Guy will not hear of it. All of this, and more, leads Rosemary to question exactly what Guy, and her neighbors, intentions really are with her and her unborn child.
Ira Levin does a masterful job of manipulating the audience, putting us in the same shoes as Rosemary, which begs the question of what is real, and what is just a nightmare. This aspect is really the engine that drives this story forward, and makes the book engaging from start to finish. I really liked Rosemary, and I was invested in her plight. The colorful, New York based characters around her were the icing on the cake.
The audiobook, which was available on Hoopla through my library, was narrated by Mia Farrow. Farrow plays Rosemary in the film as well, and does a fantastic job with her narration here thanks to her intimacy with the material. The only issue I had with the audiobook was the volume. For whatever reason, this version of the audiobook was extremely quiet compared to other books I’ve listened to. When Farrow would whisper, or even just talk quietly, it would get very difficult to hear what was being said. I am not sure who is to blame for this – Hoopla for a bad upload? The producers for terrible levels? – but it was rather frustrating. Otherwise, though, Farrow does excellently, and I can’t imagine anyone else doing the role better.
Rosemary’s Baby is a story of paranoia and trust, and Levin keeps the reader guessing from start to finish. Whether you want to catch this story in book form, or stick to the big screen, it’s a tale worth consuming. It’s a wonderful time capsule that is still easy to appreciate today.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.