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MIDDLETOWN: LOST IN AUSTENLAND

persuasion-1995-screencapture-1999370Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root star in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of PERSUASION, one of four Jane Austen-themed films screening Mondays in July at Middletown Library.

Nothing says “summertime” like the stifling manor homes and constricting social mores of Regency era, country-life England. But the classic romantic novels of Jane Austen — dating as they do from an interlude when ladies temporary lost those whalebone corsets — have perennially been a breath of fresh air on summer reading lists, so it’s only proper that Middletown Township Public Library dedicates the Movie Monday month of July to a slate of films adapted from (or otherwise inspired by) the increasingly popular author whose 240th birthday will be marked next year.

It’s a schedule that begins on the afternoon of July 7, when MTPL hosts a screening of Persuasion, the 1995 BBC production of Austen’s posthumously published final completed work. Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds star in the made-for-BBC production, a feature that was noticed for its somewhat grittier, more realistic take on the “prettier” Austen adaptations in circulation around that same time. The film unspools at 2:30 pm inside the climate controlled Community Room, where the rest of the Monday series follows in short order.

July 14 brings a departure from the letter, if not the spirit, of the author’s work, when MTPL screens the 2013 feature Austenland, taken from the satirical novel by Shannon Hale and starring Keri Russell as an American woman whose obsession with Pride and Prejudice causes her to ditch it all for a vacation at an Austen-themed English resort — a place that boasts all the romantic period trappings, even if it does fudge things a bit with the modern plumbing.

On July 21, the library screens one of the two 1996 screen adaptations of Emma (the theatrical feature with Gwyneth Paltrow, perhaps; or maybe the British television production with Kate Beckinsale) — which, after all, was the novel that inspired the 90s phenomenon Clueless. The Austenfest concludes on July 28 with one of the many dramatizations of Pride and Prejudice — this the 2005 feature for which Keira Knightley netted an Oscar nomination.

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